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Myopia, (nearsightedness) is becoming shockingly more common

Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is becoming increasingly common. A study published in this week's Archives of Ophthalmology shows an alarming rise in the rates of myopia among Americans. Americans aren't the only ones experiencing this decline in their vision. All across the globe there is an increase in cases of myopia. Myopia is a common type of refractive error which causes distant objects to appear blurry when not wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses. Close objects, however, are often clear.? Nearsightedness is caused when the eyeball is too long, which causes light to focus in front of the retina. An abnormal shape of the lens or the cornea can cause myopia as well. While nearsightedness can affect both children and adults, it is most frequently diagnosed in children between the ages of 8 and 12 and can progressively get worse during the teen years. No changes may occur between the ages of 20 and 40 but the condition can worsen with age. Children from nearsighted parents are more likely to develop the condition. Researchers at the National Eye Institute reported that rates of myopia in people age 12 to 54 increased from 25% in 1971-972 to 41.6% in 1999-2004. People with mild to severe forms of myopia were included in this survey. The dramatic increase in myopia cases points to the need for further research as to what causes the condition and what steps, if any, could be taken to prevent the condition. The results were based on data gathered from 4,436 black or white Americans from 1971 to 1972 and from 8,339 black or white Americans from 1999 through 2004. The most dramatic rate increase in myopia was noted among black Americans where an increase from 13% in the first survey period to an alarming 35% in the second survey period was noted. An explanation for some of the increase in cases of myopia could be the improved access to eye screenings and earlier diagnosis of the condition.? Better eye care, however, does not explain all of it. Some fault may lie with the fact that children are spending more time in front of computers and video games and less time outdoors. Such activities could cause the eyes to become geared toward these "near-vision" tasks. Elise Ervin Staff Writer

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