The largest study of childhood eye diseases ever undertaken in the U.S. confirms the incidence of childhood myopia among American children has more than doubled over the past 50 years.
The findings echo a troubling trend among adults and children in Asia, where 90 per cent or more of the population have been diagnosed with myopia, up from 10 to 20 per cent 60 years ago.
The Multi-Ethnic Pediatric Eye Disease Study was conducted at the USC Eye Institute at Keck Medicine at USC in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health.
“While research shows there is a genetic component, the rapid proliferation of myopia in the matter of a few decades among Asians suggests that close-up work and use of mobile devices and screens on a daily basis, combined with a lack of proper lighting or sunlight, may be the real culprit behind these dramatic increases,” said Rohit Varma, MD, MPH and director of the USC Eye Institute. “More research is needed to uncover how these environmental or behavioural factors may affect the development or progression of eye disease.”
The incidence of childhood myopia in the U.S. was greatest in African-American children, followed by Asian-American children, Hispanic/Latino and Non-Hispanic white children. Future research may include re-examining the cohort to evaluate how widespread use of “screens” and other environmental or behavioural factors may be affecting childhood myopia progression and other eye diseases over time.