Eye experts expect a steep rise in the number of youngsters in the USA diagnosed with serious visual impairments in the near future. To be specific, researchers believe the prevalence of visual issues could rise by 26 percent in pre-schoolers by the year 2060.
Professors at the USC Roski Eye Institute in Arcadia are behind this latest research. One of the key researchers on this project was Dr. Rohit Varma, the current executive director of the Roski Eye Institute.
Varma said that 69 percent of the new cases of visual impairment by 2060 will most likely be due to refractive errors. This would include diseases/eye conditions like nearsightedness (myopia) and farsightedness (hyperopia).
Researchers noted that white Hispanic children were most at risk of developing these visual impairments. The study estimated that 44 percent of pre-schoolers with visual impairments by 2060 will be of Hispanic origin.
Authors of this study suggested all parents bring their children to get regular eye exams as early as possible. The quality of a child's vision has a direct correlation to their development of social skills and overall academic performance.
Thankfully, many of the eye diseases expected to rise are easily correctable or preventable. Dr. Varma said eye doctors should actively encourage parents to bring children in for regular eye exams to help mitigate the negative effects of having a visual impairment at a young age.
The rise of visual impairments like myopia and hyperopia is not only a US phenomenon. Indeed, the entire industrial world is expected to see huge increases in visual issues with each succeeding generation. In particular, the rates of myopia and hypermetropia are expected to hit Asian nations especially hard.
While no one doctor knows exact cause of this global phenomenon, one theory is that younger generations nowadays spend an inordinate amount of time looking at computer, TV, and smartphone screens. Also, most children nowadays don't spend as much time outside as previous generations. The sun actually gives the human eye many vital nutrients like vitamin D.
Over the next few years, Dr. Varma and others hope to conduct a thorough longitudinal study to complement their latest data. These new studies will take a deeper look at the long-term psychological impacts of visual impairment as children grow up.
There are currently around 10 million adults in the USA who have severe cases of myopia. As for farsightedness, between 5-10 percent of the American population has some degree of hyperopia.
Although those numbers are quite high, they are nowhere near the rates of visual impairments in Asian countries. Current estimates show that around 80 percent of 20-year-olds in nations like Japan, Taiwan, China, and Singapore have some form of myopia.
This study was officially published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology on May 4th, 2017. Authors entitled this study "Visual Impairment in Preschool Children in the United States Demographic and Geographic Variations From 2015 to 2060."