Patterico's Pontifications


Nearsightedness Up 66% Since 1970s

Filed under: Health Care — DRJ @ 12:38 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

ABC reports on a new study that says nearsightedness is up 66% since the 1970s:

“A new study conducted by the National Eye Institute shows that the rate of nearsightedness, or myopia, in Americans has increased from 25 percent in the 1970s to a staggering 41 percent this year.

The study didn’t examine the causes of such an increase, but experts told “Good Morning America” the reasons could include genetics or poor outdoor lighting. Another possible reason could be an increase in “near work”-like reading, surfing the Web or texting.”

The Good Morning America report focused on the increase in ‘near work’ as a possible cause and concluded “the numbers don’t look good” for our vision. However, the report also clearly stated that we should not confuse cause with association.

In today’s world, Americans need for and use of ‘near work’ is greater than ever. So while my baseline is probably association rather than causation, I’m not ruling out that our bodies and eyes are mutating more quickly to make it easier for us to do the ‘near work’ that is such a big part of our lives.


16 Responses to “Nearsightedness Up 66% Since 1970s”

  1. Near work? It may be my folks were right when they said you could go blind if you played with yourself too much. Near sightedness may be a first sign or warning.

    Abdul Abulbul Amir (4d55c2)

  2. I will subscribe to the trend toward modern folks having to do a lot more close in tasks. But there’s also those who believe wearing corrective lenses lead to progressive deterioration of vision whether near or far. Just to experiment on a personal level, I have tried my homemade version of the Bates method for the past couple of years to reduce my nearsightedness by simply not wearing glasses except when I really, really needed them. Last appointment showed some improvement, but nothing big time, yet at least a small victory in that it didn’t get any worse. Took down 20/35 and 20/55 by five in each eye. I’m thinking the astigmatism is trumping any gains over pure nearsightedness. Of course, now aging caused me to buy some entry level drugstore cheapo glasses for encroaching farsightedness so that I can read very small print of the paperback variety or for better vision in poor lighting.

    political agnostic (95f671)

  3. I don’t see how we could mutate to adapt to near sighted work in a single generation. In fact, I think professionals and technical workers are less likely to have a bunch of kids and decide the next generation’s traits.

    What helps someone reach that tender age of 23 and have kids? I don’t think it’s your natural vision.

    I think we just have much more common diagnosis. It’s kinda hard to know if you have poor sight. I went many years as an adult before an optometrist shocked me by letting me know my vision was terrible. Life is much easier for me with glasses, but I didn’t know I needed them, and 40 years ago, would have gone my whole life without adding to the stat.

    Dustin (44f8cb)

  4. I think the Bates theory is interesting, too. It also intrigues me that (according to my eye specialist) wearing hard contact lenses can delay changes in eye shape that contribute to vision deterioration, but wearing soft lenses doesn’t.

    DRJ (84a0c3)

  5. my personal theory is that my eyes are so shitty i am blowing the average.

    if you look on the sides of my glasses, they actually say “made by the coca cola bottling company” in small letters. :-)

    But yeah, the evolutionary theory is crap. the fact is with humans evolution is probably at close to a standstill with little selective stress going on.

    A.W. (e7d72e)

  6. A long time theory has been that leaving a light on at night for small children (under 2) increases the incidence of myopia, maybe because the eyeball gets larger from stimulation.

    This paper is negative but notice the low incidence.

    British Journal of Ophthalmology. 2001 May;85(5):527-8.

    Myopia and night lighting in children in Singapore.

    Saw SM, Wu HM, Hong CY, Chua WH, Chia KS, Tan D.

    Department of Community, Occupational and Family Medicine, National University of
    Singapore, Republic of Singapore.

    Comment in:
    Br J Ophthalmol. 2001 May;85(5):509-10.

    AIM: To examine the role of night time lighting and myopia in children in
    Singapore METHODS: A cross sectional study was conducted on 1001 children in two
    Singapore schools. Cycloplegic refraction and A-scan biometry measurements were
    made in both eyes. A detailed questionnaire was completed by the parents to
    obtain information on night time lighting, near work activity, educational and
    demographic factors. RESULTS: There was no difference in myopia prevalence rates
    in children exposed to night time light (33.1%) compared with children who slept
    in the dark (31.4%) before age 2. In addition, vitreous chamber depth was not
    related to night light (p = 0.58) before age 2. These results remained even after
    controlling for near work. CONCLUSION: Myopia is not associated with night light
    in Asian populations.

    I have five kids. One daughter always had a night light on and was very near sighted until she had Lasik about three years ago at age 26. That’s my series of one. The other kids slept in the dark. My oldest daughter used to say that the younger one looked like a lemur because her eyes were so big.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  7. Anybody ever thought that maybe, just maybe certain mass marketers push products upon folks?

    Could be just like having that gall bladder removed.

    How about the possibility that folks are having trouble coming up with the money for the updates they should be having? Seems I can’t find an exam and lenses for less than $500. Pretty frustrating considering the lenses are now mass produced and warehoused.

    Real professionals in the mounting and fitting are also sadly lacking, IMHO.

    Now AW, where do find those lenses with small lettering? Mine have the entire casting nomenclature on them!

    TC (0b9ca4)

  8. As a comedian once said, ” The reason I wear glasses is because I got my eyes tested at a place whose sole source of income is selling them…”

    Gazzer (1e0374)

  9. Fix your eyes, get implants.

    ropelight (bd9ae4)

  10. TC I suggest looking into getting your prescription locally and buy your lenses online. One item left off some prescriptions is, I think, the distance from lens to eye, so make sure you get everything you need from the optometrist.

    I’m amazed at how much something like eyeglasses cost in our society. I need to get my glasses updated, but it costs a lot even with insurance.

    Does anyone have any idea if it’s feasible for computers to modify their display to adapt to your prescription? I wonder how hard it would be to use such a method (by flipping through various screens at home) to identify what prescription you need from an online retailer.

    Dustin (44f8cb)

  11. One reason eyeglasses are expensive is that you only need to buy new ones every 1-2 years. It’s hard to plan obsolesence in, although they have tried their best with eyeglass styles and fashions.

    luagha (5cbe06)

  12. Well here’s the link to the abstract:
    abstract of myopia article
    The comparison is between actual vision examinations then and actual vision examinations now, but “lensometry” was an acceptable indicator for myopia in both — i.e.: if you were wearing glasses when you stepped into the trailer, they measured the lens, which is much less time consuming than having you read eye charts through pinholes or lens machines.
    My initial reaction was that this was yet another case of an increased number of diagnoses being interpreted as an increase in incedence, but it looks like they controlled for that. Unless, of course, there were a lot of people wearing unnecessary eyeglasses in either group.

    Douglas2 (62fec6)

  13. Dammit! Where the hell are my glasses???

    JEA (594f31)

  14. I have to use readers, and as I have an astigmatism, I can’t just buy a pair off the rack at Walgreens. I have to get prescription lenses.

    No near sightedness here. I can hardly even see my solitaire game on my Treo let alone the texts without my glasses.

    kimsch (2ce939)

  15. Been near-sighted since I was a kid. Now I’m on my 1st pair of bifocals – haven’t tripped yet, thank god. Figure I’ll be using a white cane in a decade or so.

    JEA (0ccd61)

  16. […] DRJ suggests that something else might be at work here: [W]hile my baseline is probably association rather than causation, I’m not ruling out that our bodies and eyes are mutating more quickly to make it easier for us to do the ‘near work’ that is such a big part of our lives. […] » How about until I need glasses? (68987f)

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