One of the most common vision issues is myopia, or nearsightedness. If you're nearsighted, objects in the distance appear blurry. Most of us rely on eyeglasses or contact lenses to help see signs, chalkboards, or movie screens more easily. Today, more than 34 million Americans live with myopia, and it's estimated to be nearly 40 million by 2030.
suffer with myopia, and it's estimated to be nearly 40 million by 2030.
Myopia is a commonly inherited trait. If both parents are nearsighted, there's a 60% chance that their kids will be too. Beyond just genetics, there's now evidence that myopia is also impacted by our visual habits. +Scientists say it's a mix of genetic and environmental factors, like spending too much time looking closely at digital screen and less time exposed to natural light through outdoor activities.
In the 1970s, 25% of 12 to 54 year olds had myopia; by the year 2000, that percentage jumped to over 42%. This number will continue to rise according to the National Eye Institute. Although there is no one specific cause, experts believe this spike in nearsightedness has something to do with eye strain and fatigue from increased use of digital devices. Dr. Mark Jacquot, Clinical Director of Vision Care for LensCrafters says it's not only the screen time, but the screen's proximity to the eyes. "Being locked in at a close distance for a long period of time can sometimes cause the eyes' focusing system to spasm," said Jacquot, "which even if you don't know much about eye anatomy, it just doesn't sound good . and it isn't."THE CONNECTED GENERATION
Today we are a generation of multitaskers, logging more than 9 hours a day on computers and other hand-held devices for work, social media check-ins, gaming, and studying. An important 2009 study, published by the National Institutes of Health confirms that achieving higher levels of education correlates to this epidemic rise in myopia. Going further in school means more reading and researching, for longer time periods, and, consequently focusing longer on digital screens. This interferes with natural blinking and puts strain on eyes.
Another factor driving the increase in myopia is the effect of digital devices on growing eyes. Tablets and smart phones can be especially damaging to young eyes. Dr. Maria Liu, head of the University of California, Berkeley Myopia Control Clinic agrees. "The eyeballs are very adaptive while they are developing. If we impose a lot of near work on the eyes while they're still growing, the eyes will interpret nearsightedness as being the normal state."