Myopia may affect as many as 90 percent of high school graduates in east Asian cities, with recent evidence implicating longer schooling and less time spent by teenagers outdoors for the increased short-sightedness, according to a paper in The Lancet.
The rate of myopia suggests that cities including Hong Kong and Singapore face having an adult population with pathological short-sightedness this century, according to the researchers, who reviewed 101 papers and sources.
The condition, previously thought to be driven mainly by genetic factors, can be addressed with optometric care, said Ian Morgan, a professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, and lead author of the study published in the medical journal today.
“It poses a major challenge to ensure that all the kids who need glasses or contact lenses get them,” Morgan said by e-mail.
The cities discussed in the study include those in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
In Singapore, the three major ethnic groups of Chinese, Indian and Malays had all experienced sharp rises of short-sightedness since 1996, suggesting similar sensitivity to shared risk factors such as the environment, according to the study.
Short-sightedness imposes a disease burden, the paper said, with as many as 20 percent of the population surveyed having “high” myopia, which can lead to vision loss and blindness.
The generic drug atropine has been shown to slow the progression of myopia, although it causes unwanted side effects, the researchers said.