Rise in nearsightedness

December 16, 2009

The National Eye Institute says the rate of nearsightedness, or myopia, jumped from 25% in the 1970s to 42% today.

While it's an easy problem to treat, it's also a pricey one.

"When a lot of people, 40 or 50 million people have myopia, it ends up costing the US about 2 to 3 billion dollars annually, so it is an important problem if it is on the rise," Dr. Vitale said.

The study didn't specifically look at causes.

However, experts think genetics play a factor, as well as kids being born prematurely.

They are especially concerned about another possible cause: an increase of people doing "near work," such as reading, surfing the internet, and texting. "Nearsighted work can really affect the development of young eyes, if that is exclusively the kind of work you are doing. It is equally important to be outside playing, stimulating your far vision," Dr. Roy Chuck said.

Doctors are not recommending people to change their computer or Blackberry habits, but they do say it is now more important than ever for younger people to get regular eye exams.

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