ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
Ginger Can Ease Nausea From Chemotherapy Treatments
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Tips to Ease an Aching Back
Body Fat, Muscle Distribution Linked to RA Disability
Autumn Sees More Women With Bunion Problems
CANCER
Yoga May Bring Calm to Breast Cancer Treatment
Low Vitamin D Levels May Initiate Cancer Development
Poor Women Seem to Be Skipping Breast Cancer Drugs
CAREGIVING
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Few Hospitals Embracing Electronic Health Record Systems
Robots May Come to Aging Boomers' Rescue
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
Grapefruit-Heavy Diet Helped Spur Dangerous Clot
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
DENTAL, ORAL
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Laser Technology Spots Cavities Before They Start
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
DIABETES
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages
DIET, NUTRITION
Fruit Even Healthier Than Thought: Study Shows
Diet, Exercise May Slow Kidney Disease Progression
Go Healthy, Not Hungry for Holiday Eating
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Stomach Germ May Protect Against Asthma
Exposure to 9/11 Fumes Tied to Chronic Headaches
Prenatal Exposure to Traffic Pollution May Lead to Asthma
EYE CARE, VISION
Gene-Transfer Proves Safe for Vision Problem
Vision Test for Young Children Called Unreliable
Diabetic Hispanics Missing Out on Eye Exams
FITNESS
The Juice From Beetroots May Boost Stamina
Simple Exercise Precautions To Help Keep Baby Boomers Fit
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
GENERAL HEALTH
FDA Bans Unapproved Prescription Cough, Cold and Allergy Meds
Simple Exercise Precautions To Help Keep Baby Boomers Fit
Deployment Takes Toll on Army Wives
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
How Weight Loss Can Help the Heart
Ginkgo Won't Prevent Heart Attack, Stroke in Elderly
Fewer Heart Attacks After England Goes Smoke-Free
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
Combo Treatment Eases Wheezing in Babies
Gene Variation Found in Boys With Delinquent Peers
MEN'S HEALTH
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
MENTAL HEALTH
Mind Exercise Might Help Stroke Patients
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
Fear Response May Stem From Protein in Brain
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
SENIORS
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
For Older Walkers, Faster Is Better
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Oils Help Lower Body Fat For Some
Spice Compounds May Stem Tumor Growth
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
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Half of U.S. Adults Lack 20/20 Vision

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 11 (HealthDay News) -- About half of all American adults don't have the 20/20 vision physicians consider optimal because they are nearsighted, farsighted, or have an irregular corneal curve known as astigmatism, a large, new study reports.

The study revealed that such common eye-focus problems -- collectively known as "refractive errors"-- affect young, middle-aged and older adults of all races. Corrective care for such problems amounts to an estimated $3.8 billion to $7.2 billion annually, the researchers said.

"I think this study demonstrates that the problem of refractive eyesight errors is on the increase, particularly in terms of the amount of nearsightedness in the American population," said study co-author Dr. Frederick L. Ferris III, clinical director of the U.S. National Eye Institute.

"This is probably a worldwide problem," he added. "No one knows for sure what accounts for this. But it's a pretty smart hypothesis that the increased amount of near work that we're doing as a population may be increasing the incidence of nearsightedness. And it does suggest that we should be looking into ways to deal with it."

Rando Allikmets, a professor of ophthalmology, pathology and cell biology at Columbia University, said, "I would hazard to suggest that, in general, the widespread prevalence of refractive issues today could be related to environmental factors, like extensive use of TV and computers, and -- among the young -- video games. Because today we get much heavier loads on our eyes from all of that, and those are strenuous activities for our vision."

To take a current snapshot of American eye health, the study authors, led by Susan Vitale of the U.S. National Eye Institute, analyzed data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The survey, conducted between 1999 and 2004, involved more than 12,000 men and women 20 or older.

The authors found that 3.6 percent of those surveyed were farsighted, while about one-third were nearsighted. Slightly more than 36 percent were found to have some form of astigmatism.

Some modest gender differences were apparent. For example, in the 20-to-39-year-old bracket, more women (nearly 40 percent) than men (nearly 33 percent) were nearsighted. And in the 60-and-up age category, about two-thirds of men had some kind of refractive problem, compared with about 59 percent of women.

Age also played a role. While 46 percent of the 20- to-39- year-old group had some kind of refractive eye issue, that figure rose to nearly 51 percent among the 40-to-59-year-old group, and nearly 63 percent among those 60 and older. The study authors said farsightedness was more common than nearsightedness among the older group.

The findings are published in the August issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Dr. Scott H. Greenstein, an ophthalmologist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, called the findings "no surprise."

"Half the U.S. population needs glasses of some sort, so this does not strike me as unusual at all," he added. "And so even though many patients routinely come in concerned about having a surgical problem, it's much more often this sort of issue. I'm a surgeon, but I'm very happy to tell people, 'You don't need surgery.' And often they don't. They just need eyeglasses."

A second study published in the journal found that only 42 percent of vision-impaired Americans without health insurance seek medical attention for their eye problems. Conversely, 67 percent of Americans with eye issues who do have health insurance seek eye care. That figure surpasses the 55 percent of comparable Canadian patients, all of whom were covered by a national health insurance program.

More information

To learn more about refractive error eye issues, visit Helen Keller International.



SOURCES: Frederick L. Ferris III, M.D. clinical director, U.S. National Eye Institute, Bethesda, Md.; Rando Allikmets, Ph.D, professor, ophthalmology, pathology and cell biology, Columbia University, New York City; Scott H. Greenstein, M.D., ophthalmologist, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and instructor, Harvard Medical School, Boston; August 2008, Archives of Ophthalmology

Last Updated: Aug. 11, 2008

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