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Nearsightedness hits more Americans, researchers find

WASHINGTON -- More Americans are becoming nearsighted, but it is not clear why, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.

They found more than 40 percent of Americans aged 12 to 54 developed myopia between 1999 and 2004, compared to just 25 percent in 1971 and 1972.

Their findings, published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, could be important for health policy, given the billions of dollars spent each year in caring for people with myopia.

“The cause of refractive error is not known but it is likely due to both environmental and genetic factors,” the researchers wrote. “Doing close work -- such as reading or using computer screens -- may be a factor,” they said.

“In particular, studies in Asian populations have reported epidemics of myopia in younger generations, possibly attributed to the near-work demands imposed by more intensive education,” they wrote.

Myopia, known commonly as nearsightedness or shortsightedness, is caused when the lens of the eye focuses light in front of the retina, creating a blurry image for objects more than a few inches away.

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