Scientists at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have discovered a cell in the retina that may cause myopia when it dysfunctions.
Myopia (or nearsightedness) is a condition in which people can see close objects clearly, but objects farther away appear blurred. The problem may be linked to amount of time a child spends indoors away from natural light.
Time Spent Indoors May Cause Myopia
This newly discovered retinal cell controls how the eye grows and develops. If the cell instructs the eye to grow too long, images fail to be focused on the retina causing myopia. The indoor light spectrum has high red/green contrast, which contributes to the overgrowth of the eye.
This research might be a good reason for children to spend more time outdoors. In the future, the researchers hope to find a new therapeutic target to control myopia.
Other Causes for Myopia in Children
While researchers don’t fully understand the exact reason some children become nearsighted and others do not, it appears heredity is a factor (but not the only factor).
If both parents are nearsighted, there is a greater risk that their children will experience myopia, too. But you can’t predict who will become nearsighted by simply looking at their family tree.
Some researchers surmise that holding a book or digital screen too close to your eyes for extended periods (which causes focus fatigue) can increase the risk for myopia in children.
What Might Worsen Myopia in Children?
The exact causes of myopia may remain unknown for some time, but scientists have recently discovered something about the progression of nearsightedness that’s unsettling — for years, the regular glasses and contact lenses prescribed to children to correct myopia may actually increase the worsening of myopia.
Many of these same researchers are testing new lens designs to see if they can engineer eyeglasses or contact lenses that can slow (or even halt) the progression of myopia in children. Time will tell whether they are successful.