Myopia Prevention and Research
George L. Schmidt, O.D.


Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a condition in which the eye, when relaxed, is focused at a spot closer than infinity and thus is unable to focus at a distance.  The opposite condition, hyperopia (or "farsightedness"), is characterized by the eye's focal length begin beyond infinity, requiring the eyes to focus to see clearly in the distance.

It is estimated that 25% of the adult population is myopic.  It is more common in whites than in blacks, in females than in males and more common in those with more education vs. those with less.   Orientals appear to be especially prone to myopia development.  Also, if one's parents are myopic, the risk is increased significantly, showing some genetic predisposition.

Myopia typically begins in childhood, with the condition progressing throughout the high school and college years.  Adults in the past didn't frequently develop myopia, but computer use seems to have increased the incidence of adult first time eyeglass or contact lens wearers.

Unfortunately, we don't fully understand the causes of myopia.  Besides hereditary factors, which cannot be changed, there are at least two other factors involved in its development which can be modified.  They are Environmental Factors and Nutritional Factors.

Environmental Factors

Recent studies (found on www.i-care.net) have shown that sunlight (and ultraviolet light) exposure, along with the vitamin riboflavin is able to strengthen the structure of the sclera, the outside "white" of the eye.  Children who spent more time out-of-doors were less prone to myopia than those who spent less time. 

Extended near point tasks common to today's scholastic and business world require the eyes to strain to focus on reading material.  This can stimulate changes which lead to reduced stress on the eyes.  This first causes  spasms of the eyes' ciliary muscles (the ones responsible for focusing the crystalline lens in the eye from distance to near, like a camera lens).  Primate studies show that these spasms of the ciliary muscles can significantly increase the intraocular pressure.  With prolonged increased pressure the eyes can become elongated, permanently blurring the distance vision.  Interestingly, this is part of a normal developmental process called "emmetropization", whereby the eyes in most children correct a small amount of hyperopia to provide clear comfortable vision at distance.

Environmental visual stress may be lessened by taking these precautions while reading: frequently stretching and moving the eyes and looking away from the reading material at distant objects, removing distance eyewear or using reading glasses for extended near point tasks, and sometimes by wearing contact lenses (especially the rigid oxygen permeable lenses). 
 

Nutritional Factors

Since the eye has a collagenous structure, it seems likely that the same nutrients which strengthen collagen might also be helpful in keeping the eye from becoming elongated.  Calcium, magnesium, boron, silica, selenium, manganese and vitamin D all come to mind, as well as vitamin C and bioflavonoids.  A strong ocular structure would likely be less prone to becoming elongated, as occurs in myopia.

Low levels of calcium, fluoride and selenium were found to be related to increased risk of progressive myopia in an exploratory study by Daubs.

Vitamin E, according to Politzer, can slow the progression of myopia in children.  Myopia in children was also significantly related to lower consumption of protein, fat, vitamins B1, B2 and C, phosphorus, iron, and cholesterol, as well as less exposure to the sun, according to Edwards.

There are very few studies on PubMed dealing with nutrition and myopia.  Because of the dietary shift from organic foods and whole wheat breads to nutritionally-challenged processed white breads and the dramatic increase in the consumption of sugar, it is felt by many researchers that chromium, which is not only removed from white flour products, is actually depleted faster as a result of their consumption.

Besides the child's diet, the mother's diet before and during pregnancy may also play a contributing role in the eventual structural strength of the child's eyes (as well as the child's ultimate health).  We suggest taking a good multiple vitamin/mineral, such as Synergy Multivitamin, for several months before becoming pregnant.
 

Conclusion

While myopia is usually not a devastating eye disease, it can rarely cause blindness through retinal tears and detachments.  It is also very costly.  Billions of dollars are spent each year to get surgical relief from this condition, not to mention eyeglass and contact lens expenditures.  Surgical intervention, while popular, is not a success for everyone, and complications such as dry eyes and night glare can be very annoying.

Most eye doctors were taught in their training that there is no way to stop myopia, and there has been little research to convince them otherwise.  While research is sorely needed in this field, there appears to be little funding for such research since, like nutritional research for cancer and heart disease, there is little economic incentive for finding a natural "cure" or preventive regimen.

We should insist that our children use good lighting when reading, take frequent eye rest breaks during long study periods, and encourage them to be physically active.  If your child wears glasses for myopia, ask his eye doctor if it would be okay for him to take them off for reading (most, but not all, children would benefit from this).

Our children today have an atrocious diet, even worse than their "baby boomer" parents.  Older adults are much more likely to be farsighted, compared to younger adults.  I feel that part of the reason for this is that earlier generations were fed healthier, more nutrient-rich food, as well as enjoyed a less visually stressed environment - no TV's, computers, Game Boys, etc., and spent much more time out-of-doors in the sunshine.  Is it really surprising that our children's eyes are adapting to all that stress?

In addition to a more healthful diet, it would seem prudent that we, as parents, provide our children an insurance policy against not only myopia, but also other serious health conditions.  Fatty streaks in the coronary arteries were found in 50% of young people.  A good multivitamin might not only prevent our children from needing eyeglasses, but will contribute significantly to their overall health and longevity.  (We recommend an excellent comprehensive liquid vitamin that we've put our name on by Clicking Here.  It has dozens of trace minerals, enzymes, amino acids and phytonutrients along with the standard nutrients.)

While the suggestions on this page do not guarantee that our children will not become more myopic, they are the best ideas we have found for preventive care.

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