Myopia: a growing eye health problem

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The number of people suffering from myopia is increasing – it is now the fastest growing eye defect worldwide. Expected is that in 2050, half of the world population is short-sighted, which is five times as much as in 20001. Without taking action, myopia could be the biggest cause for blindness and bad eyesight2.

Research in The Netherlands revealed that twice as many people as fifty years ago are suffering from myopia: 1 out of 3 people is now short-sighted. Especially in young people, myopia is a growing problem. 1 out of 4 people in their sixties or older are suffering from myopia, while this is 1 out of 3 for people in their forties and even 1 out of 2 for people in their twenties.

Although this seems harmless, people with myopia have a higher risk of developing eye health problems. Mild myopia (-0.25 to -3.00) doesn’t necessarily cause any troubles, however a child with a defect of -6.00 or higher has a chance of 33% to become visually handicapped or blind 3. They have a higher chance of developing cataract and retinal detachment. On top of that, the risk of developing glaucoma is 7 times higher with mediocre (-3.25 to -6.00) or high short-sightedness (more than -6.00).

Lower the risks: start early
The cause of myopia is complex, however it seems that using smartphones in early childhood already causes much damage. Lifestyle factors, like playing less outside and many activities such as reading in a book, smartphone or tablet, are important risk factors. Obvious solutions for this are ensuring children play outside more and have less screen time during the day – this way the chance of developing myopia will decrease significantly. Another tip is to have at least 30 centimeters distance between a book or screen – not only for children, also for adults.

Next to these tips, the so-called ortho-K-lenses, a special contact lens to wear while sleeping, is one of the most effective ways to control myopia. By wearing these contacts every night, one can see clearly during the day. Another method is the use of Atropine eye drops, that could stop myopia for 77 percent, provided that people start at early age4.

Myopia research
As this is a growing problem, the topic is being discussed at every eye health congress currently and is point of discussion in many research articles. If you want to read more on this subject, you can read these selected articles below.

Want to hear more about age-related eye care?
Dr Teifi James has made a number of interesting videos about eye care with children, adolescents and adults, which are available for Green Club members only. And more videos on this subject will be available soon!

1 American Academy of Ophthalmology
2 Dutch Eye Fund (Oogfonds)
3 Dutch Eye Fund (Oogfonds)
4 Contact Lens and Anterior Eye
5 Contact Lens and Anterior Eye
6 All About Vision

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