Over the last 20 years there has been, worldwide, a noticeable increase in the incidence of myopia in children, especially in the Far East. Currently almost 30% of the world’s population is affected.
In the UK between 2006 and 2009 the prevalence of myopia in 12 to 13 year olds was measured as 23% of the population. Recent worldwide studies have been showing that the prevalence of myopia is rising in children.
The recent Sydney Myopia Study found 31% of 17 year olds were myopic this was double the prevalence found in the Blue Mountains Study a decade earlier. The fact that this rise is being reported globally is cause for concern as current estimates expect 50% of the global population will be myopic by 2050.
Why is this a cause for concern?
Myopia, especially high myopia, is defined as a person with a correction above -6.00 dioptres, meaning that the person affected is more prone to adverse effects associated with the condition. The major long term effects are: increased risk of retinal detachment, increased risk of myopic macular degeneration, and glaucoma. All of these conditions are potentially sight threatening. Apart from changes in lifestyle due to the reduction in vision the outcome could be economically challenging due to the possible loss of earning power due to blindness, or loss of independent mobility.
How can we address the problem?
The earlier myopia progression can be affected the better. Currently by the use of specialist contact lens and/or specialist spectacle lenses it can be shown that the progression towards high myopia can be slowed and possibly halted. At the time of writing pharmacological treatment is being investigated but has at present not been cleared for use in the UK.
Recent studies have shown that increasing the amount of time a child spends outside, about 80 to 120 minutes daily is a good preventative. Also children should not use cell phones or tablets etc. at least 1 hour before sleep. Along with good sleep patterns and reading habits, i.e. not holding the phone or tablet close but at least on their lap.
Should myopia be detected at a young age then the use of myopia control devices either contact lenses, spectacles or both should be considered.