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Subspecialties Refractive, Health Economics and Policy

Defusing the Myopia Time-Bomb

At a Glance

  • Myopia is becoming more prevalent, and it increases the risk of developing sight-threatening conditions, such as cataracts or myopic macular degeneration
  • Children are increasingly suffering from myopia, which can have an impact on their education and future prospects
  • Four main groups of factors – genetic, environmental, accommodative/vergence and peripheral retinal hyperopic defocus – contribute to development of myopia
  • Identifying patients at risk of myopia and acting early can help prevent or delay progression of the condition.

Myopia is more common – and increasing in prevalence more quickly – than ever before. Extrapolating current trends, over half of the world’s population will be myopic by 2050, and one-tenth will have high myopia (1). In some parts of the world, the prevalence is extraordinary: in South Korea, for example, 96.5 percent of 19-year-old males are myopic (2). Furthermore, myopia progression is associated with the development of sight-threatening conditions (Table 1): thus, refractive errors as low as -3.00DS significantly increase the risk of cataracts, retinal detachment and myopic macular degeneration. Indeed, recent studies (3) indicate that over 32 percent of adult Chinese-American myopes have a significant – and untreatable – risk to vision due to myopic macular degeneration. Similarly, myopic macular degeneration is now the leading cause of monocular blindness in Japan (4) and of new cases of blindness in China (5). Hence, myopia soon will be the major factor in sight loss among older people.

Table 1: Higher myopia increases the risk of ocular pathology.

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About the Author

Bhavin Shah

Bhavin Shah is a Myopia Control Consultant and Independent Optometrist (Contact Lens Practitioner of the Year 2019) at Central Vision Opticians (Children’s Contact Lens Practice of the Year 2018)

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