Nearsightedness: A Worldwide Epidemic

Published by Lance Kugler, MD on June 16, 2016

Roughly 42% of Americans have myopia, or nearsightedness. People who are nearsighted have a hard time seeing things at a distance or across the room. On average, nearsightedness is first detected in patients at seven years old. Currently, there’s a myopia epidemic worldwide! More people than ever before are becoming nearsighted. The alarming increase in the rate of nearsighted children is a growing concern in fast-developing countries in Southeast Asia like India and China. Myopia in Americans, ages 12-54, increased by nearly two-thirds between 1974 and 2004. In the 1970’s, only 25% of Americans were nearsighted. Today that number has rocketed to 42%!

Why are First Born Children More Likely to Be Nearsighted?

Girl smiling with technology In a recent study published in JAMA Ophthalmology, it was found that firstborn children are 10% more likely to be nearsighted than their siblings born later. These results were in line with other studies conducted in Israel and the United Kingdom. Interestingly, researchers found that there was also a correlation between birth order and the level of education. From that they came up with the idea of “reduced parental investment in education of children with later birth order may be partly responsible.” Other factors that increase the risk of myopia include:

  • Heredity – when both parents are nearsighted their kids have a higher chance of myopia.
  • Higher Education – lots of time studying and reading materials up close increases the risk of myopia
  • Screen time – lots of time looking at things up close such as a computer, phone, tablet, or TV seems to increase the risk of myopia.

Factors that can reduce the risk of myopia:

  • Outdoor Time – research shows spending more time outdoors lowers the risk of getting myopia for kids.
  • Reducing Screen Time – reducing screen time seems to help, and can also help to increase outdoor time for children.

What are the Struggles of Nearsightedness?

Nearsightedness can cause issues in school, so it’s important to schedule regular eye exams for children. Kugler Vision offers eye exams for children 10-21 years old. In fact, the first eye exam is free! For most nearsighted children, myopia worsens gradually over time. This results in them needing a stronger glasses prescription each year until they reach ocular maturity– the point at which their eyes stabilize and are done developing.

On average, eyes become stable between the ages of 18 and 21. Nearsightedness can be temporarily corrected with glasses or contacts. These temporary solutions work well for minors, who have not yet reached ocular maturity. Nearsightedness can also be corrected with a permanent solution, like LASIK for those whose eyes have stabilized.

If you don’t know if your eyes are stable, please contact us. You can schedule a free consultation to find out if your eyes are stable and if LASIK could be in your future. With more people struggling with the hassles of glasses and contacts, 76% of millennials say that they are planning to have a vision correction procedure, like LASIK. In the past, people with blurry vision resigned themselves to a lifetime of dealing with the hassles of glasses and contacts. Luckily, today there is a better way to see the world, with treatments like LASIK!

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