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Half of the World's Population Will be Short-Sighted by 2050

First Posted: Feb 17, 2016 01:35 PM EST

It turns out the world's eyesight is getting worse. Scientists have announced that half of the world's population, which is nearly 5 billion people, will be short-sighted by 2050.

In this latest study, the researchers examined the trend of vision loss among populations. They found that the number with vision loss form high myopia is expected to increase seven-fold from 2000 to 2050. In fact, it's expected that myopia will become a leading cause of permanent blindness worldwide.

So what's causing the deterioration in eyesight? Researchers mostly blame it on environmental factors. More specifically, it's due to lifestyle changes resulting from a combination of decreased time outdoors and increased near work activities, among other factors.

The findings present a major health problem. In fact, planning for comprehensive eye care services are needed to manage the rapid increase in high myopes along with the development of treatments to control the progression of myopia and present people from becoming highly myopic.

"We also need to ensure our children receive a regular eye examination from an optometrist or ophthalmologist, preferably each year, so that preventative strategies can be employed if they are at risk," said Kovin Naidoo, co-author of the new study, in a news release. "These strategies may include increased time outdoors and reduced time spent on near based activities including electronic devices that require constant focusing up close. Furthermore there are other options such as specially designed spectacle lenses and contact lenses or drug interventions but increased investment in research is needed to improve the efficacy and access of such interventions."

The findings are published in the journal Ophthalmology.

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