Increasing exposure to outdoor light is a crucial step in reducing the incidence of myopia, or nearsightedness, in children, said researchers from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.

Specifically, children should be spending ideally a minimum of two hours outdoors to help prevent myopia from progressing and developing in the first place.

According to Professor Scott Read, research director at the QUT School of Optometry and Vision Science, it was not using computers and other screens in close proximity that causes myopia but rather not enough exposure to adequate light.

"While screens are contributing to children spending more time indoors than in previous years, the research shows they are not the direct cause of the increased incidence of myopia," he said.

For the study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, the researchers measured eye growth in children with participants wearing light sensors recording physical activity and light exposure during both warmer and cooler months. They found that children with the least amount of exposure to outdoor light experienced fast eye growth, which led to myopia progressing faster.

The researchers urged optometrists to inform their patients that exposure to outdoor light under 60 minutes a day puts them at risk of developing myopia. Those that already have myopia can also use time outdoors to help reduce the condition from progressing.

Aside from increased time spent outdoors, eye drops with atropine have been suggested as a way to help curb myopia. According to researchers in Singapore, eye drops with low concentrations of atropine may help in slowing down the onset of the condition.

In the United States, fewer than half of the population is living with myopia but this number could grow in the next few decades. Based on a study released by the Brien Holden Vision Institute, about half of the population of the world, or 5 billion people, could be nearsighted by 2050, with many at risk of blindness, if nothing is done to prevent myopia from progressing into high myopia, which requires prescription eyeglasses.

Aside from Read, Michael Collins and Stephen Vincent were also part of the QUT study.

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