SPENDING less time on screens and more time playing outside can help delay the progression of an eye condition that threatens to affect half of the world’s population by 2050 — according to a Liskeard optician.

Myopia, also known as short-sightedness, is an eye condition that results in poor or blurred vision when viewing in the distance.

Following Myopia Awareness Week in May, Andrew Keirl of Andrew Keirl Opticians in Liskeard, Cornwall, has urged parents to encourage their children to swap mobile phones and video games for outdoor activities as research shows that it can delay the onset of myopia in those that might be susceptible.

Optometrist and dispensing optician, Mr Keirl, said: “In myopic eyes, the length of the eyeball is often longer than it should be, causing images of distant objects to be focused ‘in front of’ rather than ‘on’ the light sensitive layer of the eye known as the retina.

“Myopia may increase the risk of several eye conditions such as retinal detachment or myopic maculopathy that could eventually result in visual impairment or even blindness later in life.

“Current research indicates that both genetics and environmental factors influence whether a child will develop myopia. They also play a role in the progression of myopia.

“However, while we cannot change their genetics, it is useful to know that environment plays a significant role in myopia development and therefore, everyone can use some simple strategies to help protect their vision both now and into the future.”

An increase in time outdoors of about two hours per day, which helps children use their full range of vision, significantly reduces the risk of developing myopia while lots of near vision work without breaks can increase the likelihood of developing the condition.

Parents are advised to encourage children to take regular breaks — for every 20 minutes spent on near tasks, take a break for 20 seconds gazing into the distance (20 feet or six metres away).

Early diagnosis and intervention is key to slowing the progression of myopia, with regular eye examinations by an eye care professional recommended.