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Are Asian school leavers suffering extensive eye damage?

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A new study has suggested 90 percent of school leavers in Asia may be suffering from eye damage.

Can school conditions contribute to a rise in problems with eyesight? New research suggests that in Asia, it may be the case.

The BBC reports that an "extraordinary rise" in certain health problems, including myopia -- short sightedness -- may be due to a lack of outdoor light suffered by students working long hours indoors.

In the United Kingdom, the average level of myopia is between 20 and 30 percent. In comparison, researchers studying students in major Asian cities have suggested 90 percent may be leaving education with the condition.

Professor Ian Morgan, leader of the study, says that 20-30 percent was once the average among people in South East Asia. Morgan told the BBC:

"What we've done is written a review of all the evidence which suggests that something extraordinary has happened in east Asia in the last two generations.

They've gone from something like 20 percent myopia in the population to well over 80 percent, heading for 90 percent in young adults, and as they get adult it will just spread through the population. It certainly poses a major health problem."

Due to this condition, up to one in five of these students could experience severe visual impairment, long-term problems and potentially blindness. It is caused when young; straining and elongation of the eyeball results in blurred vision beyond 2 meters.

It is thought that long hours studying causes pressures on the eyes, usually counterbalanced by several hours of daylight. However, the researchers argue that the educational culture in many areas in South East Asia are resulting in a lack of this balance -- with detrimental results to young eyes.

A major concern indicated by the researchers is that of the number of Asian students suffering from 'high' myopia. According to the report, this higher level is prevalent in 10 to 20 percent of students -- which leads to vision loss, impairment or blindness.

Morgan says:

"These people are at considerable risk - sometimes people are not told about it and are just given more powerful glasses - they need to be warned about the risk and given some self-testing measures so they can get to an ophthalmologist and get some help."

More evidence of the impact of light on sight has been provided by UK researchers -- who compared short-sightedness in children from Australia and Northern Ireland. The scientists found that children from the UK were more likely to be myopic -- linked to a lack of natural sunlight.

The research team have suggested this increase in myopia requires further investigation, and in the meantime, spending more time outside may help limit the risks of acquiring the condition.

(via BBC)

Image credit: Harald Groven

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure