Nearsightedness tied to classroom time

Nearsightedness tied to classroom time

Can earning an advanced degree lead to vision problems? A new study says yes.

Researchers say they’ve found a link between nearsightedness and the length of time a person spends in the classroom. It’s the first study to show that environmental factors can play a bigger role than family history when it comes to developing myopia.

Study leaders at the University Medical Center in Mainz, Germany identified more than 4,600 nearsighted people ages 35 to 74 and discovered that those with advanced education were more likely to have myopia. The results were published in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Specifically, 24 percent of the group had no high school degree. Thirty-five percent were high school graduates and 53 percent had university degrees.

Additionally, the research showed that “people who spent more years in school proved to be more myopic, with nearsightedness worsening for each year of school.”

Nearsightedness is not uncommon, of course, but study leaders warned that extreme myopia can lead to retinal detachment, myopic macular degeneration, premature cataracts and glaucoma. Just over 40 percent of those in the U.S. are nearsighted.

Researchers said that getting out and away from books, screens and classrooms can reduce the chances of becoming nearsighted.

“Since students appear to be at a higher risk of nearsightedness, it makes sense to encourage them to spend more time outdoors as a precaution,” said study author Dr. Alireza Mirshahi, in a news release.

Dr. Harit K. Bhatt, an ophthalmologist and vitreoretinal surgeon at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., says discovering vision problems sooner than later is essential to keeping your vision strong.

“It’s important for everyone over 40 years of age to have a comprehensive eye exam that includes dilation,” he says. “Dilation of the eye is done using eye drops and allows proper examination of the retina.”

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  1. Did they look at genetics for these people too? I am very near-sighted (VERY) and I was that way before I graduated high school (most of my family too). I have my bachleor’s and some post graduate credits, but I was “blind” before that. Not saying that school work doesn’t play a part, but it certainly isn’t the only factor.

  2. This is interesting. I also think that maybe using a computer for long periods of time at school could be a big impact. However, it does not effect me since I have been wearing glasses since the the 5th grade, unfortunately!

  3. I always thought it was strange that all three kids in our family needed glasses by third grade, yet our parents had 20/20, at least until they needed readers.

  4. It isn’t just classroom time that does it. I’m betting all those books I read under the covers at night by flashlight at age 8 or 9 also had something to do with my own nearsightedness. Add that to today’s penchant for people to stare at their computer screens for hours at a time, and you have a recipe not only for nearsightedness but also for focus problems. There’s a name for it now: ‘computer’ eyes. Focusing on small screens at near distances for hours at a time doesn’t give your eyes the exercise they’d get by constantly shifting focus back and forth between near objects and far objects, such as sports or driving a car would. Eyes that stare too long at a screen have trouble focusing on distance after a while. Moreover, our savannah-traveling predecessors were typically farsighted (it wa a survival advantage to be able to spot other predators before they spotted *you*). Want to bet their eyesight would also have changed in the modern world?

    An eye exam is just the start. The answer to computer eyes, etc., is NOT to stop reading or working, especially if your job or your degree depends on using a computer and/or reading a lot of text, but to take frequent breaks AND consider vision therapy. Not one or the other, but both. That’s what I was told over at the eye clinic of the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago when they gave me some vision therapy tools to use at home. It’s a form of exercise that is every bit as necessary as aerobic exercise and moderate weight training are for the rest of your body. You’re keeping your eyes in shape when you practice shifting your focus back and forth. It may not keep you from becoming nearsighted, but it will help with eye strain and driving!

  5. I am nearsighted. I defintiely remember it becoming a problem in middle school while I struggled to see the chalk board or projector.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.