Why Are So Many Americans Nearsighted?

Myopia in Merritt Island

Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is a refractive error that makes objects in the distance appear blurry. Nearly 50 years ago, approximately one in four Americans had myopia, but that rate has increased significantly to about 42% today. Researchers believe that by 2050, about half of all people will have myopia. How is it that so many people are developing this condition? In this blog, the eye doctors at TRES VISION Group review the facts and theories.

What Causes Myopia?

Nearsightedness is typically the result of an irregularly shaped eyeball. Eyes that are slightly longer than normal or have a shape that is more oval than round tend to have myopia. Most people with myopia develop the condition during childhood, specifically their elementary school years, although it is not uncommon for people to develop it earlier or well beyond that timeframe.

The exact cause of irregular myopia is unknown. Doctors believe that there is a genetic component to eyeball shape, which is supported by the fact that parents with nearsightedness are more likely to have nearsighted children. However, environmental factors also appear to be at play, especially considering the rapid prevalence of myopia.

Theories on the Rise in Myopia

Researchers believe that the increase in nearsightedness is probably related to the change in the way children are raised. The first pertains to outdoor time. Kids used to spend more time playing and exploring outside and that seemed to have a positive effect on the eyes. Part of this has to do with the fact that children use their distance vision more in outdoor settings since there are things to see further out. Scientists have also found that natural light exposure may be a key to mitigating or decreasing myopia.

Researchers have also found a correlation between nearsightedness and screentime. These days, much of people’s lives involves staring at screens from only a few feet away. Since this is not the way people lived mere decades ago, this could help to explain the sudden increase in myopia. While everyone’s eyes can benefit from less screen time, limiting screentime seems most important during childhood when the eyes are still developing.

If You Already Have Myopia…

Fortunately, even if you do have myopia due to genetic/environmental factors, you do not have to suffer from blurry distance vision forever. If wearing eyeglasses or contacts is not to your liking, our eye team can also recommend a refractive surgery like LASIK  to help you see clearly without the daily hassles of wearing prescription lenses. To learn more about overcoming myopia, please call (321) 984-3200.