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Kids Not Seeing Well? There is a Reason

July 17, 2016
Plain English Version
Test classroom in Yangjiang, China.

Test classroom in Yangjiang, China.

What does it mean to be myopic (nearsighted)? It means you have difficulty seeing things that are far away.

Between 1971 and 2004, the number of people aged 12 to 54 in the U.S. who are myopic rose from 25 percent to 42 percent. Especially among the young, the number who are nearsighted is increasing.

In Asian countries, it is rising even faster. About 80 percent of the teens in Beijing, Singapore and Taiwan are nearsighted. Nearly 100 percent of males in Seoul tested myopic.

Most experts say these increases are not due to changes in genes. It is due to the world in which the children live. They believe the biggest problem is that youngsters do not spend enough time outdoors. The more time spent outside; the less likely they are to be myopic.

One study is following a group of Chinese children. They are spending 40 minutes more than usual outside. Findings already show a 23 percent reduction in myopia

Experts are also looking at the amount of time children spend doing what is called “near work”. Near work includes homework, reading and use of computers, tablets and smartphones. All may contribute to nearsightedness.

What to do about it? Researchers are looking into the impact of increasing the amount of light in classrooms. In a test classroom in Yangjiang, China the answer appears to be yes. Spending more time outdoors is the easiest solution. An eye drop called atropine is another approach. It works but it has side effects, such as sensitivity to light. Lower doses are being  investigated.

In the meantime, parents should have the vision of their children routinely checked. Get them glasses when they need them. Ignore the old wives tale that glasses weaken vision. They do not. They improve vision.

Source: The Wall Street Journal April 20, 2015

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