East Asia appears to be losing its sight. According to a 2012 study published in The Lancet medical journal, a shockingly large number of young people in East Asian countries are being diagnosed with myopia, or nearsightedness. South Korea tops the list, with 96 percent of people under 20 being diagnosed, but the pattern continues in China, Taiwan, Singapore, and elsewhere. Although myopia is a relatively common eye problem, its increased prevalence in recent years has been staggering. In China, nearly 90% of young adults are nearsighted, while just 50 years ago, less than 20% of the population had myopia. And while the reasons for the sudden change are elusive, Shanghai ophthalmologist Xu Xun says the cause is not genetic, since the increased rates of nearsightedness have happened far too quickly for it to be hereditary. Instead, Dr. Xu blames the lack of exposure to natural light, as this is a known precursor to myopia. An Australian study appears to agree, as it found a much slower rate of progression of myopia in children during the summer, when kids are more likely to be outside in the sunshine, than in the winter.
The eyes have it:
- Newborn babies see mostly in black and white, but they can pick out red objects against a gray background.
- Leonard da Vinci's artistic brilliance might have been partly due to an eye disorder that allowed him to use each eye separately, meaning he could render three-dimensional images more accurately.
- People blink about once every five seconds, with each blink lasting one-tenth of a second.