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Ethnic Groups Have Differing Eye Problems

Prevalence of children's eye problems depends on ethnicity, research says.

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MONDAY, Aug. 11, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A child's ethnicity affects his chances of developing such common visual problems as nearsightedness or farsightedness.

An American study in the August issue of Archives of Ophthalmology found the prevalence of some common eye disorders in children varies by ethnic group.

The Ohio State University College of Optometry-led study examined refractive errors and eye development in 2,523 American children, aged 5 to 17, from four different ethnic groups. There were 534 black children, 491 Asians, 463 Hispanics and 1,035 whites.

Overall, 9.2 percent of the children were myopic (nearsighted), 12.8 percent were hyperopic (farsighted) and 28.4 percent had astigmatism, which is blurred vision caused when the outer surface of the eye is not perfectly round.

But specific ethnic factors showed up for each disorder, according to the study.

  • Asian children had the highest prevalence of myopia at 18.5 percent, followed by Hispanics at 13.2 percent, blacks at 6.6 percent and whites at 4.4 percent.
  • White children had the highest prevalence of hyperopia at 19.3 percent, followed by Hispanics at 12.7 percent, blacks at 6.4 percent and Asians at 6.3 percent.
  • Hispanics had the highest prevalence of astigmatism at 36.9 percent, followed by Asians at 33. 6 percent, whites at 26. 4 percent and blacks at 20 percent.
  • "The high prevalence of refractive errors in children aged 5 to 14 years in the four ethnic groups indicates that uncorrected refractive errors are a major public health problem," the study authors write.

    "The implications of this research are that there are a large number of children who are handicapped visually in their everyday classroom, recreational and other activities. These uncorrected refractive errors have the potential to make learning more difficult and to reduce or self-limit the choices that children make in their daily activities. New policies need to be developed to address this public health issue," the authors write.

    More information

    Here's where you can learn more about vision disorders

    SOURCE: JAMA/Archives, news release, Aug. 11, 2003
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