The Myopia Pandemic

The Myopia Pandemic

Hand holding glasses with image of bushes in the lens

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is on the rise worldwide. According to the Review of Myopia Management, in 2020, it was estimated that 34 percent of the global population was myopic. By 2030, it is predicted that 40 percent of the worldwide population will be myopic. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that number could be as high as 52 percent by 2050 if current trends continue. In this blog we will discuss the impacts of global myopia progression, and the efforts that the eye care community are taking to curb this epidemic. 

What Causes Myopia?

Myopia occurs when the eye is too long, or when the cornea is too curved. When light enters the myopic eye, it does not reach the retina at the back of the eye, and therefore cannot be focused to a sharp image. Objects at a distance appear blurry, while objects close to the viewer’s face are more clear. The exact cause of myopia is not known, however genetics appear to play only a small role. Some data suggests that this condition may be better attributed to environmental factors, such as poor diet, not spending adequate time outdoors, and spending too much time doing near work like reading or using handheld digital devices

The Impact 

The global impact of uncorrected myopia is significant. It is the leading cause of moderate or severe vision impairment, affecting 116 million people across the world. Quality of life for people living with uncorrected myopia is often poor. Educational and economic opportunities are few, and many are subject to social isolation and economic distress. Even when sight is corrected with glasses, contacts, or surgery, myopia is a risk factor for many potentially blinding conditions including retinal detachment, glaucoma, cataracts, and myopic macular degeneration. 

Promoting Healthy Eyes

While myopia can be corrected with refractive lenses or surgery, these solutions simply correct poor vision, but do not address the underlying cause. Because the cause of myopia is not definitively known, there is no cure for this condition, however a great deal of research is being done to decrease its prevalence. Recent studies suggest that children who spend more time outdoors may be at lower risk of developing myopia by as much as 31%, however these studies do not show a reduction in the progression of myopia in children who have already developed the condition. Children who have already been diagnosed may benefit from therapeutic treatments such as specialty contact lenses or bifocal eyeglasses. Some studies have also shown efficacy of an ocular drug called Atropine in slowing the progression of myopia in children aged 6 to 12, however these results have not been studied long-term. 

The Takeaway

Myopia has risk factors above and beyond blurry vision. Even when corrective lenses or surgery are used to improve vision, myopic individuals still face an increased risk of losing their vision to retinal detachment, glaucoma, cataracts, or myopic macular degeneration. Preventing development and progression of myopia in early childhood is an important area of research, and many studies suggest that this condition can be prevented or reduced in severity by encouraging children to spend more time outdoors, less time doing near work or using digital devices, and eat a healthy diet. 

The best way to protect your child’s eyes is with an annual eye exam. Your child’s eye doctor will monitor their vision for signs of myopia, and early detection may help to prevent serious vision problems. To schedule an appointment, call or text (907) 328-2920. 

Written By: Gina Stafford COA, LDO, ABOC

References:

Is Myopia A Pandemic?, Review of Myopia Management, April 1 2020, By Dwight Akerman, OD, MBA, FAAO, http://reviewofmm.com/is-myopia-a-pandemic/

The impact of myopia and high myopia: report of the Joint World Health Organization–Brien
Holden Vision Institute Global Scientific Meeting on Myopia, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 16–18
March 2015. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2017. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO https://www.who.int/blindness/causes/MyopiaReportforWeb.pdf

Holden BA, Wilson DA, Jong M, et al. Myopia: a growing global problem with sight-threatening complications. Community Eye Health. 2015;28(90):35.

Raman P. Sah, Myopia and Use of Electronic Devices, Review of Optometry, 2019

Honavar SG. The burden of uncorrected refractive error. Indian J Ophthalmol. 2019;67(5):577-578. doi:10.4103/ijo.IJO_762_19

Jiang D, Lin H, Li C, et al. Longitudinal association between myopia and parental myopia and outdoor time among students in Wenzhou: a 2.5-year longitudinal cohort study. BMC Ophthalmol. January 6, 2021

Chua WH, Balakrishnan V, Chan YH, Tong L, Ling Y, Quah BL, Tan D. Atropine for the treatment of childhood myopia. Ophthalmology. 2006 Dec;113(12):2285-91. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2006.05.062. Epub 2006 Sep 25. PMID: 16996612.

Image: Unsplash

Posted in: Children's Eye Health

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