The Myopia Epidemic

Does it seem to you that more kids are wearing glasses, and at younger ages?  It’s not just your imagination, myopia is becoming more common with each passing year.

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a condition where the eye grows more rapidly than it should, which results in images focusing in front of the retina (the back of the eye).  This causes blurred vision. Distance objects are harder to see than near objects. Myopia is the most common reason for a person to need glasses or contact lenses.

The rates of myopia have been increasing worldwide dramatically over the last century, and are predicted to increase at an even more rapid rate.  In the United States, over 45% of the population was nearsighted in 2010, compared to only about 25% in the early 1970s.1 Worldwide, approximately 30% of the world is myopic, and if current trends continue, it will be about 50%, or over 5 billion people!2

Why is this important?  First, spending resulting from myopia is a big economic factor.  Billions of dollars are spent each year on corrective options for myopia, whether it be glasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery.  It is also estimated that globally $200 billion dollars are lost each year in productivity due to uncorrected or undercorrected myopia.3  Second, myopia can affect your child’s well-being.  Uncorrected or undercorrected myopia makes it more difficult to learn.  Studies have shown that it can reduce perceived quality of life. Last, myopia can have a big impact on eye health.  Risk for glaucoma, cataracts and retinal detachment are more than doubled in people with myopia while myopic macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide.

Children with a strong family history of myopia are more likely to be nearsighted themselves.  However, genetics are not the only risk factor. Recent studies show that our modern-day environment is contributing to increasing myopia levels.  This includes:

-More time indoors, looking at screens and digital devices

-Less time outdoors in the sunlight, looking at objects far away

-Changes in diet, exercise, school work and lighting contribute as well

What can we do about this?  If your children are not nearsighted yet, makes sure they spend time outside. Children who spend more than two hours outside daily or more than 15 hours per week are at far less risk of myopia than kids who stay indoors. 

There is no outright “cure” for myopia. Even after LASIK or other refractive surgery, the eye remains elongated and at increased risk for eye disease.  However, there are some interventions that can help slow myopia progression. Certain prescription eye drops signal the eye to slow down growth. Specialized contact lenses with multiple zones of focus have been shown to slow myopic progression when worn during the day.  Also, customized corneal molds worn at night reshape the front of the eye and can help limit further growth of the eye. As a bonus, these molds can reduce or sometimes eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses during the day!

If you are concerned about your child’s vision and ocular health, call Vision Source RIO to schedule a myopia control evaluation today!

P.S. 

The following link is a survey that can help answer questions about how susceptible your child is to myopia. Click the link below and receive an estimate of myopia risk based on your child’s age, genetics, screen time, etc!

https://mykidsvision.org/en-us/Survey

Sources:

  1. National Eye Institute Data https://nei.nih.gov/eyedata/myopia

  2. Holden BA, Fricke TR, Wilson DA, Jong M, Naidoo KS, Sankaridurg P, Wong TY, Naduvilath TJ, Resnikoff S, Global Prevalence of Myopia and High Myopia and Temporal Trends from 2000 through 2050, Ophthalmology, May 2016 Volume 123, Issue 5, Pages 1036–1042.

  3. Naidoo KS, Fricke TR, Frick KD, Jong M, Naduvilath TJ, Resnikoff S, Sankaridurg P, Potential lost productivity resulting from the global burden of myopia: systematic review, meta-analysis and modelling. Ophthalmology. 2019 Mar;126(3):338-346.