the-epidemic-of-myopia-across-india

Context: Myopia or shortsightedness is turning out to be an epidemic across India, and indeed even more in Southeast Asia.

More on the news:

  • With drastic changes in lifestyle (becoming more indoor-centric) and the timing and levels of sunlight we receive, it is time to take measures to counteract myopia, which may well become a global pandemic.
  • The scientists from the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) predict that 64 million children (aged 5-15 years) living in urban regions of the country alone will have myopia by the year 2050 if no interventions are made to control it

Myopia 

  • It occurs when the eyeball becomes longer, relative to the focusing power of the cornea and the lens; this leads to focusing not on the surface of the retina, but at a point before it. 
  • This leads to finding it difficult to focus distant objects clearly, though you can see close-up objects such as while reading and using the computer. 
  • In the year 2000, about 25% of the world’s population was near-sighted or myopic, but it is expected to increase to above 50% by 2050 (30 years from now).

Need for the outdoor brightness 

  • While many factors are known to counteract this problem, recent studies indicate less time spent outdoors to be a risk factor for myopia. 
  • There are various ways in which such outdoor brightness helps protect the human eye from becoming myopic.
    • If you are in an open space, and not performing any ‘near work’, the stress on the eye is reduced. 
    • The outdoor environment provides equal optical stimuli to various parts of the peripheral retina (the posterior part of the eye) and also enables exposure to different colors (the so called VIBGYOR) equally well, while indoor lighting using artificial sources that cut off specific wavelengths.
    • Upon bright illumination in the sunlight, the pupil reduces its size and reduces blur, and increases the depth of focus.
    • Sunlight exposure helps the biology of the eye, helping it to produce more vitamin D. 
    • Exposure to bright light releases the hormone dopamine, which controls the length of the eyeball; the shorter it is, the myopia might set in. 

Way ahead:

  • Mandatory 60 minutes of recess time in all schools during the school hours every day, by locking the classrooms to keep the students in sunlight, starting from primary level to the high schools. 
    • Have a structured recess time incorporated into all their curricula. 
  • Make it mandatory for schools to have enough space for playgrounds
  • Create public awareness among parents about the importance of proper eyesight and control the use of near-vision devices such as smartphones. 
  • Recommend/promote community centers in each locality to organize the outdoor programs weekly or at least twice a month.

Image Source: TH