Ethnicity plays role in vision problems

(Eyesight – Brief Article)

Ethnicity appears to be associated with children’s vision problems–such as near- and farsightedness–suggest researchers from Ohio State University, Columbus. They found that Asian-American youngsters tend to be myopic, or nearsighted, more than their Hispanic African-American, and white peers while white children present with hyperopia, or farsightedness, with greater frequency than those from other ethnic groups. Astigmatism–an irregular curvature of the cornea that causes blurry vision–was most prevalent among Hispanic youth.

“We don’t really know why these differences exist,” says Karla Zadnik an associate professor of optometry. “It’s probably like most of our modern conditions and diseases–a mix of nature and nurture and factors that interact together. But uncorrected vision [difficulties] are a major public health problem, and a large number of children are visually handicapped in their everyday classroom recreational, and other activities.”

Nearly one out of five Asian-American children in the study was nearsighted, and an equal percentage of white children was farsighted. More than one-third of the Hispanic kids had astigmatism.

The researchers also are studying the rate at which children’s eyes change during their elementary and middle school years. “About two percent of children are nearsighted when they enter school,” Zadnik notes. They “tend to develop myopia between eight and 12 years old. In fact, most first-graders are slightly farsighted when they begin school. As the body grows, that farsightedness tends to decrease. But for reasons that are still unclear, a child’s eyes sometimes keep growing until he or she reaches [the] teen years. It’s this growth that, in some cases, contributes to near-sightedness.”

USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education), Oct, 2003

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