Why Are More Kids Nearsighted Lately? (Hint: I Like the Answer)

Hi Folks — Here’s a recent piece from The New York Times that suggests that more kids are growing up nearsighted today because they don’t get enough time OUTSIDE. Since humans evolved as creatures living in the outdoor world, it’s possible that our eyes came to depend on that very light for their development.

Which means?  We keep our kids locked up indoors at their peril. Even though many parents think they keep their kids locked up indoors to AVOID peril. Oh, the irony. (Or should I say the eye-rony? Maybe not. Okay, I won’t. But I WILL say that maybe keep-’em-inside parents are being…wait for it…NEARSIGHTED.)  — L.

71 Responses to Why Are More Kids Nearsighted Lately? (Hint: I Like the Answer)

  1. beth Nixon June 23, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    Interesting. Although . . . both my sister and I are nearsighted and spent MANY MANY hours outside as a child. I guess my story is merely anecdotal, but it almost sounds like blaming the kid in glasses. As if they spend more time outside, they could have prevented their own near sightedness.

    I don’t wish glasses on my kids (mainly because they are a pain in the butt) and I keep them outside as possible but if they need glasses, I don’t want to waste time blaming myself for not keeping them out enough.

    But it’s an interesting theory. One I’d like to read more about.

  2. Michelle Hedstrom June 23, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    Eh, I’ve been nearsighted since I was 8, and I was outside ALL THE TIME. Not even kidding about that. If it was something I could do outside, I was outside.

  3. SKL June 23, 2011 at 10:25 pm #

    Could very well be part of the problem, for some children. But at what age would it start to make a difference? I’m pretty sure I didn’t get out much when I was an infant, particularly having been born shortly before our long winter set in. Was I doomed from that, or do we have several years to make up for it? (FTR, I was free-range AND legally blind.)

    I notice my younger daughter’s vision seems to be getting more near-sighted (though I’m no optometrist). She adores reading and screen time, and isn’t big on large-muscle play. (I do make sure she gets out every reasonably pleasant day, and have since she could walk.)

    My other kid most likely has a genetic problem. She adores the outdoors but is very nearsighted.

  4. Marie June 23, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    I suppose it could be a factor, not the only one, obviously. My 9 and 6 year olds have no vision problems at all yet. Same for my 2 year old, but hey, she’s 2. Not proof of much at all.

    All my kids do spend some pretty good time outside. I have no idea if that relates to it, but I’m not going to worry about it anyhow.

  5. Peter Brülls June 23, 2011 at 10:49 pm #

    Huh? I thought that this was long known. I’m pretty sure that I read about a German (my home country) study at least 15 years ago that show that urban kids are more often near-sighthed than rural kids.

  6. Maureen June 23, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

    I don’t doubt that it could be a factor, but I’m willing to believe that nature trumps nurture on this one.

  7. Peter Brülls June 23, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    @Maureen Ah, but this would be nature at work. How our bodies develop is not just determined by genes, but how and where children grow up.

    The maximum height, for example, is pretty much determined by genes, but the actual height is governed not only if the children had enough to eat, but even if their parents were not malnourished as children.

    The development of cats’ visual cortex is heavily influenced by the environment – it’s pretty easy to mess up a kitten’s development of sight by bringing it up in an artificially skewed visual environment. Permanently, I may add – these cats never gain the normally pretty decent eyesight cats are supposed to develop in nature.

  8. Mark June 23, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    I’ve been reading since I was four. I’ve been nearsighted since third grade. I suspect there’s a connection, but I have no regrets. I didn’t really spend a whole lot of time outside as a kid, partly due to the street being dominated by bullying jocks, but even if I had, I likely would have been focusing close up.

  9. SKL June 23, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    My daughter’s developmental optometrist argues that “close work” at a young age (preschool) is often a cause of nearsightedness / vision problems. I don’t doubt that, but that’s not what caused my eldest daughter’s problems. It could be an issue for my youngest (I have pics of her trying to read the gift tags at her 1st Christmas) – but she doesn’t need glasses at this point.

    I think this is a good argument for balance – not that I really needed an argument for it . . . .

  10. Uly June 23, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

    It could also be not that more people are nearsighted, but that more people are willing to get their vision tested and get glasses for lower levels of nearsightedness than before, couldn’t it?

    That would also explain why people in cities (and closer to optometrists) are more likely to “be nearsighted” (that is, have glasses), if people in the country don’t want to make a huge trip for a tiny problem.

    How did they determine the rates of nearsightedness?

  11. Peter Brülls June 23, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    Good point, though I doubt it. There used to be tests in school in my youth and most people in the Western World apply for a driver’s license, where they have to get their sight tested.

  12. KateNonymous June 23, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    I have a vague memory from high school biology that near-sightedness is a dominant trait. Both my memory and that factoid could be wrong, though. It’s been a long time since high school.

    I do know that my father, who grew up farming, has lousy vision.

  13. Uly June 23, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    Sure, Peter – but just having your vision tested doesn’t mean you go and get glasses to fix mild myopia.

    Or maybe it does but it didn’t used to, does that make sense?

    (Also, let me just say that the tests they give in school aren’t that great. I was seriously nearsighted as a child (and still am today) but my parents didn’t know until they took me into the optometrist to get a bonus from the insurance company. My sister’s eyesight was, if possible, even *worse* as a child, same thing. We both were tested yearly at school, as per the law, but it was never caught until we got tested at the optometrist’s.)

  14. Ann June 23, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

    That’s fascinating! I had noticed that it seems like a LOT more kids wear glasses now than when I was a kid, but I just assumed they were getting diagnosed earlier as needing them. I hadn’t realized there was actually a rise in the problem. My 9 year old is nearsighted, and it seems like she spends plenty of time outside (I kick them out as often as possible!), so maybe she just got her dad’s eyes. Really interesting article though… good food for thought!

  15. pentamom June 23, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

    It has always just seemed to me that natural selection explains it really well. In the past, if you were more than minimally near-sighted, you couldn’t function well in society, and couldn’t attract a mate. (Squinting is not very attractive, and men with limited earning power and women unable to keep a clean house, sew, and so forth, were not greatly desired.) So, people with more than a minimal degree of nearsightedness didn’t reproduce as much. It’s only been within the last couple of centuries that good glasses were easily available at all levels of society. And to a smaller degree, the degree to which glasses are considered unattractive has really decreased in the last generation, and contact lenses have become convenient and affordable to more and more people. So it only makes sense that nearsighted people are having more kids (in proportion) than ever before. And there is unquestionably a genetic element, since my four out of my five kids are not only nearsighted as I am, but have followed exactly the same couple of patterns of when they first needed glasses and how rapidly their vision decreased, as my parents and siblings and I did.

  16. Peter Brülls June 23, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    @Uly Also good points, but is stil relies mostly on the assumption that the rural population doesn’t have their eyes checked and the urban does. I find this very implausible.

    However, I just remembered that, at least in the US, findings show that rural children are more likely to be overweight, which goes kinda against the assumption that they spend more time outside – or at least that there are much more active outside.

  17. Nicole June 24, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    Everyone in my family wears glasses, so I’m pretty sure it’s genetic. Of course we all like to read and none of us was ever particularly athletic so…that might have something to do with it.

  18. Danielle June 24, 2011 at 12:26 am #

    not being outside enough is also the arguement for the extreme lack of Vitamin D in children, and the increase in asthma…. I think I’ll keep the kids playing outside thanks!

  19. maggie June 24, 2011 at 12:34 am #

    My sisters and I all spent most of our lives outside – if there wasn’t lightning we were out from breakfast until it got dark. We are all nearsighted. I think genetics probably had more to do with it than being outside. However, it’s one more reason to get the kids out…as if we needed it.

  20. SKL June 24, 2011 at 1:16 am #

    I didn’t get glasses until 3rd grade, but I was very nearsighted before I entered KG. I just figured out how to function on low vision. I was an “urban” child, but my parents could not afford to treat mere myopia when I had siblings with ambliopia and the like.

  21. Lollipoplover June 24, 2011 at 1:41 am #

    Thanks, Lenore.
    I just sent my kids out for some Visual Therapy.
    It’s hot, muggy, and buggy outside here, but just think of the money I’m saving on my visual healthcare.

  22. Uly June 24, 2011 at 2:07 am #

    Peter, when my optometrist was just off the Ferry and close to food and a bookstore, I visited every year, without fail.

    Now that I have to take a bus across the island and waaaaaait in a place with no food and no bookstore, I don’t go very often. (I also don’t have the money for new glasses as often, but that’s a separate issue… well, unless we can see that this study didn’t make any adjustment for income, which strikes me as unlikely.)

    I don’t know, but I can imagine that people who have to travel a couple of hours out of their way (or even one hour out of their way) are less likely to visit the eye doctor for minor vision problems (especially problems so minor they might not realize they exist!) than people who live close to any eye doctor they choose.

    I don’t know if that’s the case. I also don’t know how they determined who is and isn’t nearsighted, and if the rates have increased at all. I mean, maybe they’re going by simply the numbers of pairs of glasses sold, which would be even worse if, say, people buy their glasses more often or are more likely to pick up spare pairs than in the past.

    I’d like to see more information.

  23. pentamom June 24, 2011 at 2:19 am #

    Uly, I can’t imagine there are many places in the U.S. that don’t have an optometrist/optician within an hour. Sure, really remote places like parts of North Dakota or Nevada where people have to drive an hour for a major grocery run, but short of that, with an optometrist/optician in every Walmart and Target and independent providers all over the place, I don’t think there’s really much of a non-financial lack of access problem except among people who have lack of access to almost everything.

    Is it really the case that you live in NYC and don’t have an optometrist closer than across the island? Or is that just your preferred choice, to use one so far away? Every small town I’ve ever lived in has had at least one, and here in the small city I live in, there’s got to be one within a two-mile radius of any home in the city.

    But the other thing is that schools and family docs now do vision screening everywhere, so you’d get diagnosed, even if not prescribed for, regardless of whether you ever saw an optometrist.

  24. Dolly June 24, 2011 at 2:21 am #

    Eh to this. I am extremely near sighted. I cannot see more than 3 feet from my face clearly. I am so bad I am considered legally blind without contacts or glasses. But it has nothing to do with not going outside. I was outside all the time as a kid. It was genetics and because I read constantly.

  25. Frances June 24, 2011 at 2:29 am #

    One of the main causes of bad vision is not enough of the proper nutrients at key stages of growth. Notably the growth of the bone structure of the face. It is more frequent now as opposed to the olden days because first, our typical food is nutritionally poor, especially carbs. And our parents and even grandparents ate poorly as well and did not pass along the epigenetic markers for good bone structure to their children.

  26. Uly June 24, 2011 at 2:35 am #

    I am so bad I am considered legally blind without contacts or glasses.

    That’s not what legally blind means. If it were, lots of people who use glasses would be “legally blind’. Legally blind means that your eyesight is less than 20/200 WITH corrective lenses. Plenty of people have eyesight nearly that bad without ’em, but that’s nothing special. (Really nothing special if we believe the article.)

    Pentamom, it’s really the case that if I want to get *affordable* glasses, I have to go across the island to the HIP center. (Except it’s not the… whatever, you don’t care :P) I could go into the city, but honestly, if I’ve misplaced my glasses that’s the last thing I want to do!

    But I don’t know what the situation is elsewhere in the country, and defer to your knowledge in that area.

    However, honestly, I wouldn’t move my butt to get glasses if I could see without them. I do believe that it’s possible people are getting glasses now who wouldn’t before (because they can see close to fine without them), maybe due to affordability issues or I don’t know what. I don’t know if this is the case, but again, I have no idea what the criteria was in this study, and I’m reluctant to trust too much in news reports of scientific studies. They tend to be… overenthused. (And this is why people don’t know if eggs are good or bad for them, and think it’s science changing. It’s not, it’s just journalism.)

  27. Dolly June 24, 2011 at 3:09 am #

    Pentamom: My hubby and I discussed it and even with not being able to see anything without glasses or contacts I bet I still could have attracted a mate to take care of me and keep me from walking off a cliff. I have big boobs and at the very least a less attractive guy would snatch me up because I would not even be able to realize he was unattractive and as long as he kept me in his cave I would stay safe enough. Might keep me from cheating on him too since I would not be able to go out looking for another mate. I think us blind women have our usefulness, but it mostly involves being protected and being sexy.

    I still would count as legally blind because if we could not afford glasses then I would be as good as blind. Our insurance won’t pay a dime for my glasses or contacts and I am so blind that mine cost way more to manufacture and get since they are special ordered. When I wore glasses they had to file my lenses down to fit into the frames a ton they were so thick. The government won’t give people free glasses so yeah, if we were poor I guess I would be as good as blind and besides being a kept women in the home for sex, I would be utterly useless to society.

  28. pentamom June 24, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    Dolly, I’m glad to hear you’re otherwise sufficient to have attracted your husband, but you know, that really wasn’t my point, and it really wasn’t about you or your unique specialness at all. All other things being equal, a woman who couldn’t sew, couldn’t tell the weeds from the vegetables in the garden, and couldn’t tell when her floor was properly swept or not was probably not all that desirable a catch to the typical man in the days when those things were actual survival skills and things were not as convenient as they are today. Even you with your notable endowments might have struggled a bit in an age when wives were depended on for a livable home, food, and clothing, but you and I would have had difficulty furnishing those things as well as a woman with normal or near-normal vision.

    Uly, I agree with you about the whole science/journalism angle. And I think that Lenore’s take on this is just a whole big boatload of confirmation bias, but that’s okay, I can forgive her on stuff like that. 😉

  29. SKL June 24, 2011 at 3:31 am #

    I seem to remember that in the story of Jacob, Leah’s dad had to trick him into marrying her because she was “weak-eyed” and therefore undesireable and likely to remain unmarried otherwise.

    Because I couldn’t really see more than 12″ from my nose until I was 8, I have often thought that could be why I developed as an extreme introvert. I could not make eye contact nor recognize faces. Naturally I did not interact with anyone who didn’t come and get in my face first. I also stood out at school because I had to go drag a seat to the very front of the classroom if I wanted to read the chalkboard. And my teachers often gave me an earful for being foolish enough to choose parents who could not afford to buy me some glasses. As for playing around the neighborhood, I remember how shocked I was on the drive home from the optometrist, because “I can see each brick on that building! I can see each blade of grass!” So chances are, I was at somewhat of a disadvantage among my peers. I dunno. I managed to function, but never did stop being an introvert. Could explain why I can count on my fingers the number of guys I dated throughout my [unmarried] life.

    Not sure if my daughter will do any better having gotten glasses around age 3. She’s definitely on the introverted side, so far.

  30. Stella June 24, 2011 at 3:43 am #

    I was born with astigmatism, and along with the corrective glasses, being outdoors in 3D helped me enormously. This is not even a conjecture – I purposely worked hard to improve my vision (or rather, my perception) by walking in the woods, darting through briarpatches, and dodging puddles. I taught myself to always know where my feet were. As a result, when I discarded the glasses a couple of years too early, I had no trouble adjusting to life without them. I’ve gotten 20/20 scores on every eye test I’ve taken since then (in spite of the fact that my eyes are not equally good at all) and I have extraordinary balance.

    Astigmatism made me test as nearsighted, but it’s actually a different condition, so I can only speak from my own experiences.

  31. Dolly June 24, 2011 at 4:37 am #

    LOL I was more thinking about caveman days when the men knocked women over the heads and dragged them by their hair back to the cave. I still might have served a purpose alright back then. But yeah, if I didn’t have someone taking care of me I probably would walk off a cliff or go up to pet a sabertooth tiger thinking it was a kitty or some other such nonsense. My eyesight is really that darn bad. It was not always bad. I could see okay till about 2nd grade. So not sure if it just took awhile for it to get bad or if the reading had something to do with it. It was not for lack of being outside though. I played outside a lot from birth.

  32. Dolly June 24, 2011 at 4:42 am #

    My friend’s little boy has glasses and got them at age 3. She realized he might need them when she would come to pick him up at MDO and her other son would run up to greet her, but he would look right at her and then keep playing. It was cause he saw a person, but could not see well enough to see it was his mom. Poor little guy! He would also look at books and the tv super close. She takes him outside a lot too.

    I fail to see or believe that bad eyesight is something that can be prevented or avoided if your genetics say so. There are just a lot of factors. The funny thing is my eyesight slightly improved when I was pregnant. Go figure, I guess maybe all the megavitamins they had me on might have helped. I was not a good eater as a kid too and that could have effected it. That is the problem, so many factors, who can really say why someone has bad eyesight. Genetics is still the main cause I bet. You can’t fight genetics.

  33. LRH June 24, 2011 at 4:56 am #

    Outdoor play is, indeed beneficial. Mine, ages 2 & 4, are outdoors in a fenced-in area playing right now as I’m typing this, I was just outside 5-odd minutes or so ago to check on them, they were fine. I typically do this an hour or so daily–often-times I am outdoors at the same time, working on my 42 year-old jump shot (ha ha), but I’ve seen their behaviors enough to see that they do okay, so I often-times may be inside while they’re doing their thing (some rooms provide a window where I can see if need be, and I may add a “nanny cam” camera as well). Such is one of the benefits of living in the boonies.

    Dolly–dear, you didn’t need to tell me that you have “big boobs.” I’m all about engaging in conversation here regarding mostly the free-range issue, not “side topics” so much (although I can get sucked into that at times), but I am a man, and that is a visual I don’t need any help with. I am married & I don’t cheat, but all I need to do is hear those 2 words & my mind starts trying to fill in the details, okay? Life as a man is difficult enough as it is, all those lake trips I make entail me having to cancel out a lot of what I see that, frankly, is VERY appealing, but isn’t proper for me. (How would I like my wife checking out every Don Juan?) Please don’t make it harder on me dear–this isn’t e-harmony.com, just saying, ha ha.


  34. Fang June 24, 2011 at 5:11 am #

    Insufficient sunlight probably does, statistically at least, contribute to bad eyesight, but there are other factors as well. I suspect diet will one day day also be implicated, esp since the invention of agriculture and our move to grain-based staples. Agriculture allowed for more of us, but with less perfect eyes (and teeth) than before.

    e.g. http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200251h.html#ch21

  35. Catspaw June 24, 2011 at 5:47 am #

    @Danielle New Zealand has a very high rate of asthma,even among the kids (like me and both my kids) who play outside. I remember a good third of my class at intermediate being asthmatic, and we were certainly outside a lot.

    Both my parents were rural kids, both nearsighted. I’m nearsighted and played outside all the time. My parents got my eyes tested at age 6, and I was nearsighted, however the theory at that time was if you didn’t give the kid glasses, their “weak eye muscles” would strengthen and they wouldn’t need glasses, so they were only prescribed to kids with really bad vision.

  36. This girl loves to Talk June 24, 2011 at 6:00 am #

    I heard years ago of a study that said more people in asian cities etc wear glasses because of all the buildings so your eye doesnt get to look into the distance very much. Maybe there is some truth in the article, but it doesnt mean all people who wear glasses didnt/dont play outside as kid. My husband is pretty much blind without his glasses and he played outside all the time as a kid. Its a family thing.

  37. Lollipoplover June 24, 2011 at 6:13 am #

    I agree with most posters that any new scientific discovery in a study should be treated objectively. That said, this one does not profit anyone except the great outdoors! No drug or solution to push here that anyone would profit on so I am inclined to believe the research.

    When my son was 6, we were refered to eye doctors and pediatric specialists when he developed some disturbing symptoms. His staring spells were diagnosed as a form of epilepsy, childhood absence epilepsy. He was having mini seizures, 5 seconds long, and it looked like he was ignoring you. All of my kids do this, but his was not his fault!

    The Neurologist who diagnosed it told us that his seizure “triggers” are sitting still too long, video games, and anything sedentary, really. We asked if there should be any restrictions on his activities. The doctor told us to treat him like a normal kid and avoid his triggers (plus he has to take meds 3x a day). Since he didn’t have seizures when moving, he encouraged us to pursue outdoor activities. It is almost if we were given a prescription to make our child free range. It worked.

    I can now say after 4 years, he is one extremely active and fun kid. He plays outside constantly, hasn’t had seizures in years (though still on meds), and just played an awesome game to help his baseball team win the championship. He bikes to swim practice now that school is out.
    I honestly can’t imagine what his world would be like if we treated him like he was injured

  38. John June 24, 2011 at 7:01 am #

    I recall hearing long ago that submariners were given “periscope time” to give their eyes a chance to focus on distant objects. Otherwise, they could only focus as far as the nearest bulkhead. Without these breaks, it was said they temporarily lost the ability to focus at distance, which was particularly noticeable when they came ashore.

  39. pentamom June 24, 2011 at 7:19 am #

    “LOL I was more thinking about caveman days when the men knocked women over the heads and dragged them by their hair back to the cave.”

    Well, considering we don’t actually have very much information on human behavior in those days and whether that actually happened, but we have about 4000 years of recorded history in which it’s pretty well known that the typical woman needed to be able to see reasonably well in order to care for a home, and was highly depended on to do so, I don’t know why you’d think I was referring to a period about which we have only conjecture, as opposed to all of recorded history up until the mid-1800’s. But whatever.

  40. Seriously? June 24, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    Yes. Vision problems have nothing to do with more people being tested and fitted with appropriate lenses, people with poor eyesight being in public instead of dead from early accidents or locked away in homes/institutions, or people with poor vision passing their shitty eye genes on instead of not being selected as a breeding partner/spouse because they weren’t as fit as someone with good vision.

    It’s all about Lamarckian exposure to sunlight. GENIUS!

  41. Metanoia June 24, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    Interestingly, my partner is finding that the more time he spends at his new job working outside, and the less time he spends in front of the computer, the better his eyes are. He puts this down to him using his longer vision more often in the last 12 months. He probably won’t ever be able to get rid of his glasses, but certainly ensuring that you use your eyes regularly to view things in the distance and up close is good for them

  42. Sky June 24, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    I can’t help but suspect that “more” kids are nearsighted now for the same reason “more” kids are just about everything else (allergic, autistic, ADHD, etc.) now – more parents are taking the time and money and effort to get them diagnosed and treated at a younger age, occasionally even treating kids who don’t really need treatment, or who don’t need it yet, or who don’t need the degree of treatment they are getting.

    In the past, the philosophy leaned more toward letting things slide until they absolutely had to be addressed. There’s a good side and a bad side to the shift in philosophy. When it comes to glasses, unfortunately…the more you use glasses, the more your sight deteriorates; it’s better to put off the use of glasses as long as reasonably possible. (At least that’s what my childhood optometrist claimed, and my parents put off glasses for me for many years even though I tested nearsighted, and I still use them as infrequently as I reasonably can. Since my prescription has not changed at all in the last 16 years, I’m going to believe that optometrist knew what he was talking about.)

  43. SKL June 24, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    Sky, I’ve heard that about putting off glasses or using a weaker prescription to encourage the eyes to get better. But in my case, the doc said that all the squinting I was doing was actually making me more blind. I guess there is no one guideline for everyone.

  44. Sky June 24, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    There’s another reason for the “more” (in everything) – simple redefinition.
    Decades ago, for example, autistic meant you rocked in a corner and barely communicated at all. Now there’s an autism spectrum, and it can mean a wide variety of things and describe a wide variety of behaviors spanning a wide variety of adjustment levels. Before, allergic meant if you ate something, you stopped breathing. Now, it also means if you ate something one time and got a slight rash, or apparently even if you ate something one time and your mom thought it affected your behavior. ADHD (just called hyperacticity disorder then) meant you were running around frantically in non-stop circles; now, it means you don’t finish your homework on time. Diabeties has increased dramatically, but we’ve also redefined it, and that redefinition made thousands of people diabetic overnight. I wonder if “nearsighted” has been redifined in recent years, if the standards and expectations for “standard vision” have increased? It seems helicopter parenting is just a small part of a larger societal phenomenom that has reached such an extent that there are very high societal expectations for the way everything should be, and anything that falls short of those expectations is therefore a more serious problem than it would have been in the past. I do think it’s harder for us, as a society, to tolerate deviance from perfection than it used to be. There’s a good side to this, and a bad side to it. It can lead to good things and bad things. But it seems to be a cultural shift that’s larger than parenting style.

  45. Sky June 24, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    SKL, makes sense that, as people are individuals, what works for each might vary. I think my optometrist’s advice worked for me.

  46. danan June 24, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    I thought all kids are assumed to be on the far-sighted side until about 7 or 8, when near sightnedess shows up. I remember this when 4, later becoming extremely near sighted.

    On the genetic issue, most focusing problems (near and far and astigmatism) are due to the overall shape of the eyeball. This, logically, should make you question that this is a single-gene trait. From which it follows there is no real dominance or recessiveness, just tendencies, and you can’t change this much. Corrective surgeries change the cornea’s shape, not the eyeball’s shape.

  47. danan June 24, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    On the other hand, I had almost all of my myopia corrected, with a bit of astigmatism left (it helps for near vision). Being active with perfect vision except for the astigmatism took some getting used to. The outside is a bit more shimmery and faceted now, which is cool.

    Astigmatism corrected by lenses was worse, however, as every time my glasses or contacts moved, my world shaked a bit. This was especially noticeable when hiking or walking quickly.

  48. Valerie H June 24, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    I was nearsighted for 25 yrs until I got Lasik surgery in 2002. I was introduced to idea of sight therapy by Dr. Mercola in 2006. Then I read this book: Take Off Your Glasses and See: A Mind/Body Approach to Expanding Your Eyesight and Insight by Jacob Liberman.

    I believe there a few factors to consider. I do agree that sunlight is very important. Looking at long distances keeps the eye muscles in fit shape. Spending a lot of time indoors in small spaces doesn’t exercise the eye muscles for seeing distances. Proper nutrition is important for vibrant health. In addition, there is emotional factors. When my eyes started to fail, it was during a time when my mother had breast cancer. If behavioral therapy was available at that time, I might not have needed glasses long term. I have a behavioral ophthalmologist for my 2 children who are now wearing glasses. They do eye exercises and we are seeing results. I have hope that they will not have to be in glasses forever.

    This is a different paradigm that the general public understands about vision. Eye exercises for vision improvement has been practiced for centuries in India. A doctor in NY came up with a therapy in the 1920’s. It is called the Bates Method.

  49. SKL June 24, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    My kid also improved her visual learning and eye-hand coordination with vision therapy, but not her distance vision. It could be because I went to the conventional opthalmologist first, bought the (expensive) glasses, and then discovered vision therapy. The developmental optometrist liked the idea of giving my kid a weaker prescription or having her not use the glasses all the time. But because her astigmatism was extremely bad for her age (she was not yet 4), and I’d just invested in the strong glasses, he did not push it.

    I always wonder if she would have had a better chance had I caught her issue earlier. But hey, at least we have the ability to buy glasses.

  50. Dolly June 24, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    Pentamom: Even still not all women probably had to have good eyesight. If the family was well off the woman could have servants to do the menial things around the house. And you know, maybe a hot girl with bad eyesight might not be a good wife, but she might make an excellent mistress. LOL! Mistresses get knocked up too.

  51. Peggy the Primal Parent June 24, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    I spent as much time outside as any kid could and I’m near sighted. All my siblings also spent all their free time outside and they are not near sighted. I have celiac disease, they don’t. I am quite convinced that like other defects, the cause is nutritional. Sorry but a few hundred years indoors is not enough to affect evolution.

  52. Mom's Journal June 24, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    I would love to believe that being inside is a cause for nearsightedness, but as a child and now as an adult I spend a stupid amount of time at the computer. I’m probably the only web geek that is actually farsighted, but I’m thinking it’s nature.

  53. Robin June 24, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    I spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid and I was the klutz. Turns out it may have been because I needed glasses. If you’re outdoors a lot, near vision is not as necessary. Once those kids start school that’s when their problem will show up faster. City kids probably don’t use their far vision as much so it reasons they’d end up with glasses sooner. Personally, I think it has more to do with genetics than anything else. I have an astigmatism and am near sighted. Both my kids got glasses at a young age. Maybe I recognized the signs of it earlier because of my own history. Don’t know and the trouble with these studies is that we still don’t know for sure. And like pentamom said, we tend to choose the studies that reflect our thinking as more accurate than others.

  54. pentamom June 24, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    “Even still not all women probably had to have good eyesight. If the family was well off the woman could have servants to do the menial things around the house.”

    Until very recently, the percentage of women who were so well off as to have servants to do everything and not have to do anything themselves in a pure manual labor situation was minuscule, if not close to non-existent. Even ladies of high nobility in the Middle Ages did their own fancy work and spinning, both of which require decent eyesight. It was much too small to affect the overall trend of natural selection.

    “And you know, maybe a hot girl with bad eyesight might not be a good wife, but she might make an excellent mistress. LOL! Mistresses get knocked up too.”

    True, but *most* men preferred legitimate children, and preferred not to primarily populate the world with children who would be deemed to belong to another man, even if they had a mistress, which left all the poor-sighted women of morals out in the cold for marriage. Again, not a significant effect upon natural selection. All your quibbles prove is that near-sightedness would not have died out entirely, which we obviously knew already. Besides, mistresses who squint (which is inevitable with any significant degree of untreated nearsightedness) don’t rank all that high, whatever their other endowments might be.

    Are you seriously taking issue with the contention that poor-sighted women in a manual labor world where there was no treatment for their condition, would have been less fecund, or are you just quibbling for some reason of your own?

  55. pentamom June 24, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    “It’s all about Lamarckian exposure to sunlight. GENIUS!”

    Now let’s be fair. There’s no Lamarckianism necessary in this analysis. You only need to say that it recurs in every generation because each generation of kids gets insufficient exposure to sunlight.

    I tend toward a genetic plus literacy plus computer usage explanation, with genetics being the main factor and the literacy and computer use mainly being aggravators. But there’s no need to mischaracterize the sunlight theory as being Lamarckian.

  56. SKL June 24, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    In Dolly’s defense, I think she was joking about the mistress thing and maybe even the boobs, LOL.

    I really don’t care why I was nearsighted. I’m just super glad for the inventions of eyeglasses, contacts, and laser eye surgery. And also effective vision therapy.

    It’s helpful to know that letting kids play in wide-open spaces is probably helpful to their eyesight. But that’s as far as it goes, really.

  57. pentamom June 24, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    I know Dolly meant to be lighthearted, but she was framing it as though it was some kind of refutation of my point. “Well, *I*’m desirable and near-sighted” and “Well, they COULD have had near-sighted mistresses.” Either or both of those might be true but they hardly dispute my point, because they are both obviously exceptions to my “rule,” not a refutation of it.

  58. EricS June 25, 2011 at 12:49 am #

    That is very ineresting, purely in a scientific point of view. Who says you can’t learn new things. It’s always been known as well, that being outdoors is very healthy. Fresh air (relatively), exercise, the sun providing vitamin D to our skin (within reasonable limits though). And if given the right activities and stimuli, being out doors is great for the mind and spirit as well. We evolved into the species we are today because we spent most of our time outdoors. Why change something that’s worked for us because of millions of years of evolution, just because some people are scaredy cats.

  59. Myriam June 25, 2011 at 1:02 am #

    Hmmm, so men didn’t make passes at girls who needed glasses.
    No doubt myopia is an evolutionary disadvantage but not because myopic women can’t sew or spin – nearsightedness is an advantage for close work like that. Sorry, I know I am quibbling.
    Also, when a change is very rapid and sudden, like this increase in myopia, I think you do have to look at environmental factors.

  60. SKL June 25, 2011 at 1:17 am #

    Myriam, ha ha! The other day I read about a woman who gave her 7-year-old an IOU for a boob job. I’m thinking maybe I’ll give my daughter an IOU for a laser eye job – especially if it appears likely that she’s gonna be flat-chested.

    (Just kidding!)

  61. Dolly June 25, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    Yes, I was joking.

  62. pentamom June 25, 2011 at 1:49 am #

    Myriam, taking your “quibbling” in the spirit intended — I don’t think nearsightedness is an “advantage” for close work. It might be somewhat neutral if it’s not too bad, but I could only sew with the work right up in my face (literally) if I didn’t have glasses, and that would be both inconvenient and probably painful over time (what it would do to my neck, etc.) To do the amount of sewing necessarily to sustain a family without benefit of clothing stores or even sewing machines is almost unimaginable with my eyesight (without glasses.) And I’m not sure hunching over a spinning wheel with your face on the thread is very efficient, either. And while a good spinner works by feel, that can only be learned by seeing what you’re doing, at first, at least in most cases.

    Far-sightedness would admittedly be even worse (as I am learning with my aging eyes and my less than perfectly prescribed progressive lenses) for close work, but nearsightedness is quite bad enough.

  63. SKL June 25, 2011 at 2:34 am #

    Hmm, about the nearsighted advantage question. When I was younger, I used to wear only one contact lens because I could read / do close work better without correction. Then again, it is possible that my prescription was simply wrong. I’ll never know.

    I also used to draw a lot better (and with more inspiration) when I wasn’t wearing glasses/contacts. No idea why.

    Who really knows whether glasses / contacts make us see the same way as people with 20/20 vision? This is something I always wondered about (as I peered through my coke-bottles).

  64. Barbara June 25, 2011 at 3:35 am #

    I have heard that it is important, especially while working on a computer or reading, to look into the distance once in a while to relax our eyes. However, I notice that in the US (I’m native German) people do a lot to shut out daylight and long distance views. So many people constantly have blinds shut in their houses or offices. My daughter’s classroom windows are covered with paper. Heaven forbid she could be distracted by the trees outside! It is legal to sit in offices without windows. In the European Union it is illegal to work in a room without windows for more than 4 hours per day!

  65. SKL June 25, 2011 at 5:02 am #

    Barbara, I like that law!! I HATED when I had an office without a window. I’d go and sit in my boss’s office after hours just to get my “outside world” fix (when I was working until the wee hours).

    My computer is in front of my bedroom window, so I can look out without even moving my head. I still don’t get a long-distance view (unless you count the clouds above the treeline), but it’s better than a wall!

  66. pentamom June 25, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    SKL, then evidently your nearsightedness isn’t very severe. I’m not downplaying it, I’m just thinking that whether it’s an advantage has to vary with how severe it is. I couldn’t possibly do close work without correction, from about the age of 6. To give you an idea, I just tested my laptop screen, about 16 inches from my face, with my glasses off. The only thing I can distinguish is color variations and something that looks like blurry lines for the text I’m typing now. To read what I just typed, my nose had to be about four inches from the screen. And that doesn’t work well, because that’s so close I have to move my head around to see more than about two lines at a time because my field of vision is so narrow at that distance.

    So, while some degree of nearsightedness might help with close up work (and because my progressive prescription isn’t that great, I do take my glasses off to read tiny print and thread needles and such) anyone with my degree of myopia, which is fairly severe but not exactly rare, would be pretty non-functional. And that’s what I had in mind.

  67. Uly June 25, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

    Dolly, this time I wasn’t picking on you, it’s just a use of the term “legally blind” I’ve had drilled out of me by a legally blind friend.

    Sky, you basically said what I was trying and failing to say, so thanks : )

    Now let’s be fair. There’s no Lamarckianism necessary in this analysis. You only need to say that it recurs in every generation because each generation of kids gets insufficient exposure to sunlight.

    And, additionally, Larmarck gets a bad rap.

    Oh, he’s still wrong, but he wasn’t nearly as stupid as he’s made out to be. His idea wasn’t that by stretching their necks, giraffes made offspring with longer necks, nor that by squinting you end up with nearsighted children. No, Lamarck thought that it was the combination of stretching their necks AND wanting longer necks that made long-necked giraffes. In order for that to work with myopia you’d have to not only squint BUT ALSO want to have nearsighted children so they’d be better able to do close-up work.

    He was still wrong, of course, but he can’t actually be debunked by saying “We dock dog’s tails, and yet they’re still born with tails!” because presumably the dogs want their tails.

  68. SKL June 26, 2011 at 2:43 am #

    Pentamom, before I had laser surgery, I could see clearly (uncorrected) about 6-8 inches from my eyeballs. At 16 inches, there was no possible way I could read without correction. But, I would hold my book at about 6-8 inches from my face. When up close, I could see a lot of details that would be blurred together with the lenses on.

    I stopped doing the one-eye thing when I was in my early 20s. (That happens to be around the time I stopped feeling inspired to creatively write and draw.) Since that was a LOOOONG time ago, I can’t say whether or not the one-eye trick would work with the computer screen.

    As far as the computer goes, even with correction, I needed to do all kinds of things to make the print larger and the screen “not to dark, not too bright.” But after laser surgery, I didn’t need to do that any more.

    I really don’t know any “whys” for any of my vision issues – I am just glad I was able to zap them all away via laser surgery. I mean, thinking back, that was one of the best days of my life. Y’all who are not sure about it – I strongly recommend it.

  69. zephyr July 7, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    lets also remember that there are some conditions that are hereditary…I lived almost every waking moment outside (when not in school) as a child and was near sighted needing glasses in 3rd grade. Both my parents, also very outdoor kind of people a re near sighted. and my oldest needed glasses to be able to see the board in school in grade 2….and she has spent ALOT of time outside, and has very little computer and tv time …..so maybe for some a change of environment will help, but for others it may simply be inherited….

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