Nearsightedness (myopia) is a common vision condition in which you can see objects near to you clearly, but objects farther away are blurry.
In the United States, myopia has doubled in the space of 30 years.
A UK study found that nearly 50% of university students were myopic.
In Taiwan, research shows an increase of almost 65% over the past 50 years.
Worldwide, the prevalence of myopia is expected to increase from 2 billion in 2010 to 5 billion in 2050. (Sorry, no Canadian data.)
The toll of myopia
The spread of myopia causes substantial costs to the individual and society.
People face an increased lifetime risk of developing glaucoma, posterior subcapsular cataracts, retinal detachment and macular degeneration.
Options for prevention and correction
Eye care professionals are in a unique position to help prevent and control the myopia epidemic.
The chances of a child becoming myopic are reduced by approximately 30% if the child spends more than 14 daytime hours a week outdoors.
Parents should be urged to encourage children to engage in outdoor activities as a preventative measure.
Atropine has been shown to significantly control myopia progression. But the drug has a high incidence of side effects, making it clinically unpopular.
Evidence suggests that glasses with bifocal or progressive lenses can significantly reduce the progression of myopia. However, children who wear glasses are more likely to be bullied at a time when compliance is most crucial.
Contact lens control
Several promising approaches to controlling myopia with special contact lenses are currently being explored.
Wearing contact lenses can pose challenges for paediatric patients, and each youngster’s ability to maintain proper hygiene and compliance habits must be thoughtfully assessed.
Nonetheless, the continuing refinement of these and other contact lens-based methods of myopia control is highly encouraging. It is likely they will have a significant impact on everyday practice, as efforts to control the rapid increase in myopia are stepped up worldwide.