Up to 80% to 90% of school age kids in major East Asian countries like China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and South Korea suffer from myopia or near-sightedness. This represents an enormous burden of disease that will lead to further problems in the future, as 10 to 20% of those affected suffer from ‘high’ myopia that can ultimately lead to loss of vision, impaired vision, as well as blindness. Professor Ian Morgan reported in The Lancet Series on Ophthalmology that this extremely high prevalence of myopia is linked to increased schooling, according to recent data, which indicates that the lack of daylight exposure could have a major impact on this gigantic problem. It was previously believed that myopia was mainly based on genetics. However, more recent evidence shows that environmental factors are involved as well. Numerous studies have demonstrated that an association exists between schooling and myopia, with reading books close-up and intensive study having been determined as the causes of myopia. According to more recent epidemiological surveys, it has been suggested that longer periods outdoors protect against developing myopia.
Dr Ashraf of the Atlanta Vision Institute notes that great strides have been made in epidemiology and identifying the risk factors associated with myopia, however no proven methods have been shown to prevent myopia in children. Unfortunately children do not qualify for any corrective surgery, such as LASIK, until at least the age of 18, he adds.
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