There is growing concern about an increase in the numbers of people worldwide that are developing myopia which predicts that, if the current rate continues, by 2050 half the world will be myopic.
Great news for opticians I hear you say but that is a (excuse the pun) very short- sighted view. As eye care professionals our practice cares more about the health of our patients’ eyes. It is well known that even only moderately myopic people are more prone to retinal detachment, cataract, macular degeneration and glaucoma and this risk increases as you become more myopic. So much attention needs to be taken of this evidence in view of the long- term health and economic impact it will have.
At present there is no way of curing myopia, even laser surgery only corrects the optical effects as the eye remains just as prone to future disease because of its shape and anatomy and it can only be performed after the eyes have stopped developing. However, current research has identified methods by which the rate of increase can be slowed or possibly halted.
The use of multifocal spectacle and very recently dual-focus contact lenses or hard contact lenses worn overnight that alter the corneal contours (Ortho-keratology) are some of the physical methods available. Interest is also being shown into eyedrops of weak drugs although they still remain unavailable other than for clinical trials in the UK.
We can however do lots to help, particularly for our children as environmental factors and lifestyle play a key role in myopia development. Time spent outdoors has a protective effect – for every hour spent outdoors the risk of myopia is reduced by 2% (with the correct sun eyewear if needed). There have been suggestions of a link between near vision activity and myopia for many years but research has proved inconclusive on this area although reducing swopping time spent on digital devices for time outdoors is definitely beneficial.