Top Tips for Avoiding Myopia (Nearsightedness) by Marc Grossman, OD, LAc

Nearsightedness affects around 1.6 billion people worldwide. A study predicts that 49.8% of the world’s population will be affected by myopia by 2050 – that’s a whopping 5 billion people! So below are my top tips to slow down this visual epidemic:

Go Outside  Studies have found evidence that more outdoor activity may protect against development of myopia in children. It’s been shown that myopia tends to get worse and progress in children more quickly during the winter, rather than in the summer. That’s because during the winter months children spend less time outside, generally do less physical activity, and engage in more schoolwork and tasks that require focusing on close-up images (such as working on the computer or reading books).

In fact, according to the Vision Council, nearly one in four kids spend more than three hours per day using digital devices, when they might be better off heading outside for some good old-fashioned play. Increased outdoor activity has been shown to retard the onset of myopia by 11-34%. One possible reason for this is because components of sunlight activate vitamin D, which may play a potential role in eye growth. One study conducted in Taiwan found that when students were randomly assigned to either a group that completed outdoor activities during recess, or a group that maintained their normal routines during recess, the outdoor group developed less myopia. The study found that 8.4 percent of children involved in outdoor activities during recess became myopic, compared to 17.7 percent of children who maintained their normal recess activities.

Take Eye breaks Use the 20 / 20 / 20 rule. Look 20 ft away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. This can prevent visual stress and support flexibility in the eyes. You know there was a study done many years ago with Eskimos and they found that in the general population Eskimos had a very low risk of developing myopia. Then they took a group of Eskimos and they put them in school they educated them and they found that most of them became near-sighted. So when you’re doing a lot of near work close work this induces myopia near-sightedness.

Eye Massage acupressure around the eyes (basically around the orbits of the eyes which are the bones that surround the eyeballs). The points shown below are some of the major local eye points (from acufinder.com).

  • Jingming (UB-1) Urinary Bladder Channel, lies where the inner corner of the eye meets the nose. Bladder 1 and 2 are perhaps the best two points for eye problems of all kinds from early-stage cataracts or glaucoma to hysteria with vision loss.
  • Zanzhu (UB-2) Urinary Bladder Channel, lies in the depressions at the inner ends of the eyebrows.
  • Yuyao Midpoint of the eyebrow in the hollow. Good for eye problems related to worry, excessive study and mental strain.
  • Sizhukong (SJ 23) Sanjiao or Triple Burner Channel, in the depression at the outside end of the eyebrow. This is a local point good for eye and facial problems.
  • Tongziliao (GB 1) Gall Bladder Channel, lies in the cavities on the outside corners of the eye sockets. Good for eye problems including conjunctivitis, red sore eyes, photophobia, dry, itchy eyes, early-stage cataracts and blurred vision, as well as lateral headaches.
  • Qiuhou Midway between St-1 and GB-1 along the orbit of the eyes.
  • Chengqi (St 1) directly blow the pupil on the infraorbital ridge bone. This is a main point for all eye problems.

GENTLY massage each acupuncture point around the orbit of the eye, starting with B1-1 and massaging each point as you go up and outward. Each point should be massaged for approximately 5-10 seconds.  You can do this massage as often as you like over the course of the day. Keep breathing as you massage. Deep breathing helps the cells of your eyes receive the oxygen they need for healing.

Eye exercises Not only internally, but you can use eye exercises to relieve visual stress, such as palming, sunning, and scanning.  I would recommend doing these eye exercises every day to improve your circulation and discharge the stress that gets accumulated in the eyes.

Diet and Nutrition -the retina has one of the highest metabolic needs of the body and when we start developing eye deterioration of any kind our ability to nourish the cells in the eyes and support its metabolic processes is usually at fault. The eye needs a lot of antioxidants – I’ve spoken many times about the importance of eye-healthy nutrients and foods. In particular, chromium has been found to be an important trace mineral in slowing down the progressive myopia pattern. Other trace minerals like selenium and magnesium are also very important. I would also suggest cutting out inflammatory foods like carbohydrates, sugars, and processed foods. There is a strong correlation between your blood sugar levels and the health of your retina.

Supplement with nutrients that support healthy vision. Research has linked macular pigment density with axial length; consequently carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin which support macular pigment may be helpful.

Eating a whole foods, anti-inflammatory diet is the best way to obtain more of the vitamins your eyes need. These include carotenoid antioxidants like lutein, and zeaxanthin, plus vitamins C, A and E, as well as zinc and essential fatty acids — all of which support eye development and help protect aging eyes. Inflammation due to an unhealthy diet and lifestyle can contribute to eye problems including myopia because inflammation affects blood flow. The retina receives blood by a delicate network of small blood vessels that are susceptible to damage if someone has an inflammatory disease, such as diabetes.

What are the best foods to eat to protect your eyes and vision?

  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, swiss chard, etc. These provide lutein and zeaxanthin, which have anti-inflammatory effects. Other foods that supply these nutrients include broccoli, organic corn, free-range egg yolks and tropical fruits like papaya.
  • Yellow- and red-fleshed fruits and vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut/winter squash, tomatoes, cantaloupe, apricots and red bell peppers.
  • Foods high in vitamin E like sunflower seeds, almonds and avocados.
  • Vitamin C-rich foods like guava, kiwi, oranges, berries and greens like kale.
  • Zinc-rich foods like lamb, grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds and chickpeas.
  • Foods high in vitamin A, like egg yolks, liver, grass-fed butter and cod liver oil.
  • Omega-3 fatty acid foods such as salmon, sardines, trout, walnuts and flaxseeds.

Inflammatory foods to avoid that may worsen existing health conditions and damage your eyes include:

  • Any food allergies you have (such as gluten, dairy or nuts)
  • Processed grains
  • Refined vegetables oils
  • Foods sprayed with lots of pesticides (non-organic crops)
  • Fast food
  • Processed meats
  • Foods with added sugar
  • Too much caffeine and alcohol

Reduce exposure to Electronics 

Put the devices away. Data from 145 studies covering 2.1 million participants revealed that increases in myopia are driven principally by lifestyle. Today’s youth spend a lot of time performing near work activities, often on electronic devices. Of course it’s unrealistic to ask kids not to use these tools at all, but try to limit them so that there’s more balance in your child’s day. The use of electronic gadgets like mobiles and notepads is one of the major reasons for the increasing number of myopes. This visual disorder usually sets in during childhood, and it is important to deal with it before it progresses and assumes alarming proportions. So, the next time you find your child engrossed in that mobile or notepad for too long, grab it away without second thoughts!

Exercise & Stay Physically Active

  • Exercise is one of the best ways to naturally boost blood flow and control inflammation — two factors that are important for eye health. Aim to get at least 30–60 minutes of daily activity. Encourage your kids to do the same by playing outside or joining a sports team. Find more fun things to do that don’t involve watching TV, working on the computer or using your phone. This can include walking, cycling, gardening, dancing, listening to podcasts or audiobooks, or even cooking and cleaning your home.
  • Different glasses and contact lens options Ask your doctor about ways to manage myopia. Regular glasses and contact lenses can help kids see more clearly, but they do not slow down the progression of myopia, which means kids may need increasingly stronger prescriptions as they continue to grow. However, certain types of contact lenses—including soft lenses—can slow down the speed at which myopia develops.5 According to the American Optometric Association multifocal contact lenses for children with myopia can slow the progression of nearsightedness, providing a more effective and efficient treatment option.
  • Reduce stress Stress is the major cause for developing myopia. If you are a book worm or a person who remains in front of a computer screen for many hours try to give enough rest for your eyes. It is not just the body; even your eyes need rest. Some people who feel tired continue reading or working by relaxing in an easy chair or lying down on a bed. If the body feels tired, you will feel dizziness, body pains or other signs. But, you may not even know that your eyes are tired unless you show worst signs of watery eyes or painful eyeballs piercing out. To relax your eyes, you do not have to sleep. Just, go out for a walk or just close your eyes for about ten seconds once in every hour while you are working.
  • Ergonomics on the computer, Upgrade your work station: High resolution monitors cause less eyestrain. If you need to view more than one window, consider adding a second monitor or a larger monitor. Move the monitor back: The closer an object is to the eyes, the harder the eye muscles must work to maintain focus. Moving a monitor from 16 inches to 25 inches reduces the demand on the eyes by about 40%.

Marc Grossman, Doctor of Optometry and New York State Licensed Acupuncturist is author of several books, including Natural Eye Care – Your Guide to Healthy Vision.  Since 1980 Dr. Marc Grossman has helped many people maintain healthy vision and even improve eyesight. He is best described as a Holistic Eye Doctor, dedicated to helping people with such conditions ranging from myopia and dry eyes to potentially vision threatening diseases as macular degeneration and glaucoma. His combined multi-disciplinary approach using nutrition, eye exercises, lifestyle changes and Chinese Medicine provides him with a wide array of tools and approaches to tackle difficult eye problems. Dr. Grossman founded the Rye Learning Center in 1980, a multidisciplinary center for learning problems, in 1996 co-founded Integral Health Associates in New Paltz, New York, and in 1999 co-founded Natural Eye Care, Inc. For more information go to www.naturaleyecare.com or call 845-255-8222.