The rise of myopia in the near future

May 29, 2018

Experts predict a significant spike in nearsightedness over the next 30 years

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a condition of the eye where light focuses in front of the retina, rather than directly on its surface.

How is myopia caused?

Myopia can be caused when the cornea and/or the lens are too curved in regards to the length of the eyeball. This causes distant objects to be blurry while close objects appear normal.

Symptoms of myopia typically becomes noticeable during childhood.

Is myopia hereditary?

If both parents suffer from myopia, there is a greater risk their children will also be nearsighted. In saying that, you cannot predict who will become nearsighted by simply looking at their family tree.

As mentioned before, myopia generally begins in childhood. In most cases, myopia stabilises in early adulthood, but it can sometimes continue to progress with age.

How many people are affected by myopia globally? 

In 2010, myopia affected roughly 27% of the world’s population. Three percent suffered from high myopia, a severe form of myopia in which the eyeball continues to grow and becomes very long, from front to back.

High myopia can increase the risk for retinal detachment as well as early development of cataracts and glaucoma.

According to a study conducted by Professor Padmaja Sankaridurg (University of New South Wales),  myopia will affect an estimated 52% of the world’s population by 2050. Meanwhile, 10% of the population will suffer from high myopia, more than tripling from 2010.

“In 2050, approximately half of the world will have myopia prevalence.” – Padmaja Sankaridurg

So what can be done? Is there anything we can do to protect our eyes from myopia?

Does our environment factor into myopia?

Recent research conducted by Sankaridurg and other experts have found that a child’s environment can either encourage or prevent myopia from developing and progressing.

Surprisingly, the key to reducing the myopic epidemic in children is to increase exposure to outdoor light.

Parents are now advised to keep their children outside for at least an hour per day — preferably two hours — in an effort to fight off myopia.

Optometrist Scott Read, along with optometrist colleagues Dr. Stephen Vincent and Professor Michael Collins, found that outdoor light appeared to be the main protective factor in myopia development and progression.

Sunlight may be the key

Results proved that greater daily light exposure was associated with less axial eye growth over 18 months, supporting the role of light exposure in the documented association between time spent outdoors and childhood myopia.

For every 90 minutes of average daily outdoor light exposure, the child’s axial growth rate decreased by 0.12 mm/y. This in effect slowed down myopia progression.

While further research is needed to confirm these findings, it is proposed that outdoor light stimulates the production of factors in the retina which help to slow eye growth.

Slowing the progression of myopia may keep your child from developing high levels of nearsightedness that require corrective eyeglasses. It can also assist in preventing serious eye problems later in life, such as cataracts, glaucoma, or even a detached retina.

If you decide to spend more time outside, make sure you and your kids or grandchildren are protected from the sun’s UV rays.

In the meantime — even if your child is not complaining of vision problems — make sure to schedule routine eye exams for your children. Early childhood eye exams are especially important if you or your spouse suffer from myopia or if your child’s older siblings have myopia or other vision problems.

What about adults? How can myopia be corrected?

Although an outright cure for myopia has not been discovered, we can now offer a number of treatments that may be able to slow the progression of myopia.

These treatments can induce changes in the structure and focusing of the eye to reduce stress and fatigue associated with the development and progression of nearsightedness.

Currently, four types of treatment are showing promise for controlling myopia:

  • Atropine eye drops
  • Multifocal contact lenses
  • Orthokeratology (“ortho-k”)
  • Multifocal eyeglasses

If you would to discuss your options, or if you would like further information on these four treatments, please feel to email Jenny at jenny@gp-optom.co.nz to set an appointment.

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A Journey in Optometry Around the World

A Journey in Optometry Around the World

Uncorrected refractive error and cataracts are the leading causes of avoidable blindness throughout the world, but not everyone in every country has equal access to eye care

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