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Failing Vision

January 12, 2010

Nearsightedness is becoming more and more common in the United States.


An increasingly blurry picture. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Between the early 1970s and the early 2000s, the percentage of nearsighted Americans went from 25% to over 41%. Epidemiologist Susan Vitale at the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, says that while myopia is easily treated, it costs the country a lot.

SUSAN VITALE (National Eye Institute):
If you’ve got 40 or 50 million people who need to go out and buy a simple pair of glasses, that adds up very, very quickly to numbers that are in the billions.

Vitale says the increase is probably due to environmental factors, like more time spent focusing on fine print, computer screens or other close objects. Another theory is that we don’t spend enough time outdoors, focusing on distant objects. She says that she and her colleagues are working toward teasing out the causes and on new forms of prevention. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.