UH researchers discover why nearsightedness is a global epidemic

- Just how bad is Myopia or nearsightedness becoming?

Research shows it’s more than double what it was a half a century ago.

“By 2050 half of the world’s population will be nearsighted,” said Earl Smith Dean of the College of Optometry at the University of Houston. “58 percent of the people in North America are likely to be nearsighted by 2050.”

People with Myopia can see close objects clearly while things farther away are blurred.

“For most eyeballs, by six or seven years of age the eye is absolutely perfect,” said Smith.

Nearsightedness usually occurs around the age of eight to 10 and becomes worse over the next five or six years.

“On average people who read more are more likely to become nearsighted,” Smith said.

Smith believes there are two reasons behind the growing epidemic of Myopia.

“Not spending time outdoors and intense educational pressures that our children are under is I believe the primary causes of Myopia,” said Smith.

Smith says children spending a couple of hours a day outside could prevent them from becoming nearsighted.

The college dean was recently awarded a $1.9 million grant from The National Eye Institute.

He’s developing treatments to slow the progression of nearsightedness in children.

“Glaucoma comes about in Myopic people because of the structural changes in the eye certain kinds of cataracts and detachments,” said Smith. And even blindness.

Myopia is among the top three leading causes of permanent blindness in the world and among the top five in the U.S.

The study now underway at UH will look at how light levels and the color of indoor lighting affect eye growth.

Researchers are also testing a new pharmaceutical agent that could possibly slow the development of Myopia. 

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