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About 70 % of 17-year old school children in Hong Kong are short-sighted or myopic. If the population of China develops myopia to the same degree, some 700 million people in China will become myopic in the next 20-40 years. Myopic degeneration is the second highest cause of low vision in Hong Kong. A treatment for myopia would improve the quality of life for more than half a billion Chinese, and have considerable positive economic implications for the country. The annual cost of myopia in the US is in the region of US$4.8 billion. China will soon have 18 times more myopes than the US.

The huge increase in the prevalence of myopia in the younger compared with the older generation in Hong Kong demonstrates an environmental influence.

Studies carried out on identical twins have shown that there is a genetic involvement in myopia. However, recent work carried out at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University has shown that Chinese can have normal eyesight and that myopia develops following exposure to intensive close work.

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School of Optometry. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. 2005. All rights reserved.