Myopia is a Huge Problem in India, China, and the U.S. Is it Caused by Devices or Academics?

A recent article in Science Alert stated that the incidence of myopia or near-sightedness among children in the U.S. is now approaching 40-50% of young people.  An article in the Indian Express also recognized this problem in India.  The article quotes a recent AIIMS(All India Institute of Medical Science) study which identified the  myopia prevalence of over 13% of the school age population in India. According to the study, this rate of myopia in India has nearly doubled in ten years.

In China, the myopia epidemic may be even worse. A recent article published by NPR noted that the 86% of high school students in Shanghai suffer from myopia. Below is a quote from this article from a leading opthalmologist in China:

Dr. He Mingguang, a Chinese ophthalmologist and leading myopia researcher, has another hypothesis.

“It’s the schooling system,” he says. Studies suggest China’s crushing homework load is putting too much strain on kids’ eyes, he says. A typical 10-year-old here eats supper on weeknights and then studies from 7 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. or midnight.

This theory of academics leading to the increase in myopia was also shared in a study in India. According to the article, Is Myopia a Public Health Problem in India?,  a study conducted in 2001 saw nearly double the rate of myopia in an urban population versus a rural population of children. Below are more takeaways from this article regarding the causes of myopia:

Numerous theories attribute close-up work to increase in axial (anterior-posterior) length of the eye causing myopia. Studies supporting this view have shown that increased prevalence of myopia is observed in certain occupations, such as microscopy, sewing, and carpet weaving that requires a large amount of time spent in close-up work. However, contrary view states that people with myopic vision will prefer the occupation, which requires near work especially, if they have been uncorrected in childhood.

The increase in number of myopic persons in progressive generations can be attributed to increasing near tasks such as working on computer, video games, and television watching. In the studies conducted in India, the difference in myopia prevalence found between the rural and urban population also points towards the same.

An article published this year in WIRED summed up the current theories on the causes of myopia below:

Without understanding that competing signal, scientists can’t nail down the cause of the recent rise in nearsightedness—whether it’s focusing on your phone nine inches from your face all the time, how light interacts with our circadian rhythms to influence eye growth, or none of the above. 

The article, Slowing Myopia Progression in Children, published in Review of Optometry, lists several treatments for myopia control. among these treatments, one of the most advanced is Orthokeratology. Below are takeaways from this professional journal:

Orthokeratology has long been used to treat myopia in adults and children, with great success for daily vision without the aid of glasses or daytime contact lenses. Throughout the years, practitioners have begun to notice that their younger patients have had a reduction in their myopia progression as a result of using orthokeratology lenses. 

This myopia epidemic has been occurring across the globe, at a significant rate in India, China, and here in the U.S. Whether it is academics, iPhone exposure, lack of daylight, or all of the above, myopia control is certainly an important issue for parents today. If you are concerned about myopia control in your children, please discuss your concerns with Dr. Blair. Dr. David Blair is a leading professional in the treatment of myopia with Orthokeratology.


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