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News & Blog

More People Are Becoming Short-Sighted Across Europe

14th May, 2015  


Recent data has shown The Eye Blog that more people are becoming short-sighted across Europe. What does this mean for your vision?

A definition of short-sightedness

According to the NHS short-sightedness, also known as myopia, “is a common eye condition that causes distant objects to appear blurred, while close objects can be seen clearly.” In practise this means that if you’re short-sighted, you can’t see things that are far away.

Treating myopia

If you think that you may be short-sighted you should visit an optician. They’ll conduct a standard eye test to determine whether your vision is 20/20 (6/6 in the UK) or not. This will often include the Snellen test, where you have to read a chart of letters that gets smaller as you go down.

If you can’t read certain letters on the chart that means you’re short-sighted. At this point your optician will usually prescribe glasses or contact lenses to correct your vision. However you can also treat short-sightedness with laser eye surgery. This is a surgical technique that uses a laser to reshape your cornea and correct your vision.

More young people are becoming short-sighted

Statistics suggest that as many as one in three people in the UK are short-sighted and that the condition is becoming more common. This is supported by research carried out by King’s College London, which showed that myopia is twice as common in people aged 25–29 than it is in people aged 55-59.

Researchers at the University analysed data from over 60,000 people, collated from various studies conducted from 1990-2013. Among other things, the results showed that there is a higher prevalence of short-sightedness in 25-29 year olds at 47.2%, compared with 27.5% in those aged 55 to 59.

Myopia is becoming more common across the world

The results showed that generally, myopia is becoming more common across the world. However it also discovered that the eye condition is not only growing in areas such as Asia, where it’s been prevalent for quite some time, but in regions where short-sightedness has historically been less of an issue, such as Europe and the US.

The woman who led the study, Katie Williams of the department of ophthalmology at King’s College London, explained what it means. She was quoted by the Guardian saying: “We knew myopia was becoming more common in certain parts of the world – almost eight in 10 young people are affected in urban east Asia – but it is very interesting to find that the same pattern is being seen here in Europe. This has major implications for the future burden from this eye disease which can threaten sight in older age, particularly in very short-sighted people.”

What’s causing more people to become short-sighted?

Therefore, it’s really important to know what’s causing more people to become more short-sighted. The Guardian reported that the experts suggested that a number of factors could be contributing to a rise in myopia, including increased use of digital devices, longer school days with more after-school tuition and staying outside for longer with less light.

However Williams’ colleague, Professor Chris Hammond explained: “More research is required to see if changing trends in childhood outdoor exposure, reading, and educational practices are affecting myopia development. While this study was on adults, we do not yet know the impact of the recent rapid rise in use of computers, tablets and mobile phones on visual development in children.”

What does this mean for your vision?

This shows why you need to pay attention to this research. These days you can’t walk around a street corner without bumping into someone who’s using a digital device. They’re practically a part of the fabric of society. A 2014 report from Ofcom shows that a staggering 83% of adults in the UK now go online using any type of device in any location.

This means that every person who’s reading this article is at greater risk of developing short-sightedness. Therefore the most obvious thing to do if you want to avoid damaging your sight is to spend less time with your eyes glued to a digital device. Go outside and get some fresh air every once in a while!

What can you do to protect your vision?

In conclusion, yes this study did prove that short-sightedness is becoming more common across Europe. It grabbed data from studies involving 60,000 people over 23 years, so its results are pretty conclusive. However it also showed that this doesn’t mean that you’re more likely to become short-sighted. You just need to put down the digital devices and get outdoors every once in a while if you want to protect your vision!

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