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Dramatic Increase in Myopia in Recent Decades

Prevalence up from 25 percent in 1971 to 1972 to 41.6 percent in 1999 to 2004

THURSDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- The prevalence of myopia has increased dramatically in the United States over the past three decades, according to a study in the December issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Susan Vitale, Ph.D., of the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues calculated and compared myopia prevalence estimates from the 1971 to 1972 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to the latest myopia estimates based on 1999 to 2004 data from the same survey to determine trends in myopia prevalence during the years between the surveys.

The researchers found the prevalence of myopia in subjects between the ages of 12 and 54 years was 41.6 percent in 1999 to 2004 compared to 25 percent in 1971 to 1972. Prevalence was increased in both African-Americans (33.5 versus 13.0 percent) and Caucasians (43.0 versus 26.3 percent), as well as for degrees of myopia severity (greater than −2.0 diopters, 17.5 versus 13.4 percent; greater than −7.9 diopters, 22.4 versus 11.4 percent).

"When using similar methods for each period, the prevalence of myopia in the United States appears to be substantially higher in 1999 to 2004 than 30 years earlier. Identifying modifiable risk factors for myopia could lead to the development of cost-effective interventional strategies," the authors write.

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