Myopia and macular degeneration increases mostly in children

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Several studies indicate that the prevalence of myopia or nearsightedness is increasing in the U.S. and worldwide, and researchers project that the trend will continue in the coming decades.

In particular, it is growing amongst children, due to the increased use of screens. Projections say that 50% of the world will be nearsighted by 2050. Dr. Stephen Cohen joins us to explain the issues and also ways to decrease or stave off myopia.

What is causing short-sightedness to increase?

“We have not had an evolutionary change, but we are having a lifestyle change. We spend all our time engaged in activities that are within two to three feet.; we’ve become computerists. As a result, with all that typing spent up close our eyes are basically saying to us, ‘Well if I am spending all my time looking here, why don’t I just set my eyes to be clear here?'” said Cohen.

“It’s estimated at 2050, this is considered to actually becoming an epidemic. 50% of the world’s population, 57% of Americans are expected to be, and the problem is that it starts when you’re young. Now with children spending so much time on devices, there are the unintended consequences that we are starting to see, and that’s going to go forward,” said Cohen.

What is causing this increase in children especially?

“It’s great that we have these options available, but as it’s true with all things, there’s some consequences. With children, they are spending so much time engaged in that. It used to be you would send your child to the bedroom if they misbehave, now they have to tell them to get out of the bedroom and away from the devices. We are not designed to do this, if we were we’d have one eyeball in the middle of our forehead,” said Cohen.

A change in lifestyle is what’s to blame for this increase, but if we address the issue now we can begin to fix it and do something about it.

How does being outdoors make a difference?

“What’s been found is that outdoor activities, particular for young children, is a critical way to prevent the onset of near-sightedness. Studies have been done that have been peer reviewed, that says two and a half hours a day or more spent outdoors decreases the chance of the child becoming near-sighted. We can’t do anything about genetics, if you have two near-sighted parents good chance the child is going to be near-sighted,” said Cohen.

Try to spend some time outdoors engaged in activities that will focus your eyes on things from a distance, especially for young children.

Dr. Stephen Cohen

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