February 2016 — Researchers at the Brien Holden Vision Institute in Sydney, Australia, recently poured over data from 145 studies and analyzed the prevalence of myopia and high myopia among 2.1 million study participants. The group also used data published since 1995 to estimate trends from 2000 to 2050.
What they found was alarming.
An estimated 1.4 billion people worldwide were nearsighted in 2000. That’s about 23 percent of the total global population. But by 2050, the researchers predict this figure will soar to 4.8 billion, afflicting 49.8 percent of the world’s population.
The good news is, there are ways to protect your children from landing on the wrong side of this statistic. One key may be to encourage them to turn off their electronic devices and head outdoors.
The study points out that the projected increases in myopia are driven principally by lifestyle changes characterized by more near-work activities, like using computers and portable electronic devices, including smart phones. Other proposed risk factors for myopia include long hours spent in the classroom and less time outdoors, especially among young children in countries such as Singapore, Korea, Taiwan and China.
Although the vision of most people with nearsightedness can be restored with glasses and contact lenses, high levels of myopia increase the risk of eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment and myopic macular degeneration — all of which can cause irreversible vision loss.
The study report authors concluded that the prevalence of high myopia is likely to increase seven-fold from 2000 to 2050, which would make myopia a leading cause of permanent blindness worldwide. The report appeared online this month on the website of the journal Ophthalmology.
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