PHOENIX – It might seem like the best thing parents can do for their kids’ vision is make sure they get annual eye exams. “So monitoring your children for eye problems is very important thing, because children are not going to be the ones to tell you they have a problem with their eyes,” says Dr. Neal Palejwala with Retinal Consultants of Arizona. The most common vision problem for school-age kids is myopia, or nearsightedness. Dr. Palejwala says parents can look out for some warning signs. “Do they hold the book really close to their face? Do they sit right in front of the television? And do they have trouble kind of seeing things at a distance?” Dr. Palejwala says there is something parents can do that could help prevent or delay myopia in the first place. “A lot of studies have seen a significant impact in terms of progression of myopia or incidence of myopia with about 10 to 14 hours of outdoor activity per week.” In fact, in a brand new study, researchers in China found they reduced the number of kids who developed myopia by nearly 10 percent, just by adding an extra 40 minutes of outside activity per day. Other studies indicate it is not about the exercise. “They did not find if someone who is more physically fit than the other person they had a higher or lower incidence of being nearsighted.” It could be more about the sunlight. “And what they have noted is the outdoor light, the high intensity of light ,triggers release of chemicals in the eye that can prevent the elongation of the eye in the future,” says Dr. Palejwala. The doctor says he would recommend about an hour per day outside. But he also recommends sunglasses. “Because they protect you from the UV light.” But, beyond that he says the studies are clear, that heading out to play really does show some benefits. “Spending any quality time outside is a good thing,” he says.
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