Guangzhou has an lengthy history as the largest eye hospital in China, yet about five years ago, it was clear that the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center would need to expand.
Children were showing up with their distance vision blurred, caused by a condition called myopia, and with countless kids needing eye tests and glasses, the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center was bursting at the seams. So the center started building additional testing rooms — and for more space, Brian Torchin said it moved some of its doctors and researchers to a local shopping mall.
Most diagnoses are done during summer and winter school holidays, and during those times, children stream in every day, and East Asia has been overwhelmed by this uncommon surge in myopia, also known as short-sightedness.
Myopia or short-sightedness is more than an inconvenience. It’s a refractive error, which means that the eye does not refract light properly to see the image clearly. Rays of light converge on a parallel focal point in front of the retina instead of directly on it. When there is myopia, near objects are seen clearly, but distant objects appear blurry.
It’s generally accepted that myopia is inherited, and that means the East Asian community’s eye infliction will continue to grow. In fact, the threat is so great that it has prompted acceleration in research.
For years, scientist have blamed myopia on one obvious culprit: reading books. Studies have found that students who spend a lot of time reading texts have higher rates of myopia, than students who spend less time reading.
Today, while researchers have not found the exact cause of short-sightedness, the consensus is that less exposure to light may be the cause to myopia. Kids are spending less time playing outside.
Perhaps, simply more outdoor playtime can curb short-sightedness.