ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture May Trigger Natural Painkiller
Health Tip: Anticipating Acupuncture
Taking the Mystery Out of Hypnotherapy
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Safe Toys for Dogs
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Fractures in Older Adults Up Death Risk
Get in Step With Summer Foot Care
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
CANCER
Smoking Exposure Now Linked to Colon, Breast Cancers
Get to Know the Pap Test
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
CAREGIVING
Newborn Screenings Now Required Across U.S.
Stressed Health Care Workers Battle 'Compassion Fatigue'
Weekend Admission May Be Riskier for GI Bleeding
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
Obesity Linked to Heart Failure Risk
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
COSMETIC
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
Biological Product Shows Promise Against Gum Disease
Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs to Jaw Trouble
DIABETES
Strict Blood Sugar Lowering Won't Ease Diabetes Heart Risk
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Lifestyle Factors Tied to Older Adults' Diabetes Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Low-Fat Diet Does Little to Alter Cholesterol Levels
Vitamin B12 Key to Aging Brain
Western Diet Linked To Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Greener Neighborhoods Mean Slimmer Children
Fish in U.S. Rivers Tainted With Common Medications
Sunken, Unexploded Bombs Pose Cancer Risk
EYE CARE, VISION
Unconscious Learning: In the Eye of the Beholder?
Half of U.S. Adults Lack 20/20 Vision
Thyroid Problems Boost Glaucoma Risk
FITNESS
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
Higher Fitness Levels Tied to Lower Heart, Death Risks
Simple Steps Get Walkers Moving
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
GENERAL HEALTH
Man Dies of Brain Inflammation Caused by Deer Tick Virus
Keep Fire Safety in Mind as You Celebrate
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Risk Factor for Stroke More Common Among Whites
Kids With Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Heart Trouble
Fish Oil Supplements Help With Heart Failure
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Dangerous Toys Still on Store Shelves, Report Finds
Health Tip: Back Pain in Children
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
MEN'S HEALTH
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
MENTAL HEALTH
Cinnamon Breaks Up Brain Plaques, May Hold Key to Fighting Alzheimer’s
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
Love Hormone May Ease Discussion of Painful Topics
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
SENIORS
Protein Deposits May Show Up Before Memory Problems Occur, Study Says
Healthy Diet Could Cut Alzheimer's Disease Risk
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
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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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