Key Research Reports on the Myopia Epidemic

Myopia, or nearsightedness has become a major issue across the world within the recent two decades. There have been studies in the U.S., as well as Asian and European countries attempting to understand this modern day epidemic in vision care. Below is a summary of some of the key articles regarding this myopia epidemic and the treatment options for patients.

Myopia: Coming Epidemic, 12/28/17, Berkeley School of Optometry

This article is written by the Myopia Center at the Berkeley school of Optometry in California.  I this article, Dr. Liu, the leader of the Myopia Center, discusses the Myopia Epidemic and also the need for early treatment to prevent progression. Below is a quote from the article:

Today, statistics suggest that half the world’s population will be myopic by 2050. In Asia, the numbers are even more staggering. A study in Seoul, South Korea, where all teenage boys undergo medical screening prior to national service, showed that 96.5% of 19 year-olds are myopic. In China, says Dr. Liu, “the prevalence is so high that it’s becoming a problem for military recruitment. People are having premature refractive surgery because they want to become enlisted.” Moreover, early myopia can lead to complications like glaucoma, macular degeneration, and retinal detachment later in life. Dr. Liu says that statistics show that “myopia is now the leading cause of blindness in the world across all ages, ethnicities, and demographics.”

Our obsession with phones could be changing the shape of our eyes, Wired Health

This article is an interview between Wired Health and an Opthalmologist, Dr. Andrew Bastawrous. Dr. Bastawrous discusses the growing Myopia Epidemic, as well as genetic and environmental risk factors. Below is a key quote from the article:

WIRED: Is there a myopia epidemic happening at the moment and is the iPhone – or smartphones in general – to blame?

Andrew Bastawrous: There’s definitely a myopia epidemic. Many more people are becoming shortsighted than they were a decade ago. The implications of this are not just that there are more people needing glasses, but that their condition is pathological. Their myopia is due to the eyeball growing, particularly in populations of Asian descent, at a rate that is causing even potential severe visual impairment, through glaucoma retinal detachment and another retinal problems.

Retina Specialists Seek to Stem Myopia Epidemic, Medscape, 9/8/17

This article from Medscape is a summary of the European Society of Retina Specialists 17th EURETINA Congress. Presented September 7, 2017. In this article, leading researchers from around the world discuss their findings with regards to myopia treatment, risk factors, and the trends across countries. Below is a summary quote from the article:

In developed countries in East and Southeast Asia with intensive education systems, such as China, Taiwan, and South Korea, the prevalence of myopia has surged since the 1960s. According to the latest estimates, 80% to 90% of students in these countries who complete secondary school are myopic, and 20% are highly myopic, defined as a spherical equivalent refractive error of more than –6 diopters, Dr Morgan reported.


Digital Devices and Myopia

Playing outside seems to help kids’ vision, Washington Post, 11/11/17

This article discusses research which suggests that time spent outdoors may help prevent myopia in children who are at a hereditary risk. Below is a summary quote from the article:

If a child has two nearsighted parents, the hereditary genetic effects increase the child’s chances of needing glasses to about 60 percent if time spent outdoors is low.

More time outdoors, about 14 hours per week, can nearly neutralize that genetic risk, lowering the chances of needing glasses to about 20 percent, the same chance as a child with no nearsighted parents claims.

A survey of papers from around the world, including Australia, England and Singapore, in the past decade align almost perfectly with what we published in 2007 from the Orinda Longitudinal Study of Myopia.

The Myopia Boom, Nature 3/18/2015

This article is an excellent summary of the data with regards to the myopia epidemic.  This article also suggests that time spent outdoors is a key factor in preventing myopia in children. The article mentions the various studies which have at times presented scientists with conflicting information regarding the Myopia epidemic.

Please see this except below:

Researchers have consistently documented a strong association between measures of education and the prevalence of myopia. In the 1990s, for example, they found that teenage boys in Israel who attended schools known as Yeshivas (where they spent their days studying religious texts) had much higher rates of myopia than did students who spent less time at their books On a biological level, it seemed plausible that sustained close work could alter growth of the eyeball as it tries to accommodate the incoming light and focus close-up images squarely on the retina.

Attractive though the idea was, it did not hold up. In the early 2000s, when researchers started to look at specific behaviours, such as books read per week or hours spent reading or using a computer, none seemed to be a major contributor to myopia risk5. But another factor did. In 2007, Donald Mutti and his colleagues at the Ohio State University College of Optometry in Columbus reported the results of a study that tracked more than 500 eight- and nine-year-olds in California who started out with healthy vision6. The team examined how the children spent their days, and “sort of as an afterthought at the time, we asked about sports and outdoorsy stuff”, says Mutti.

It was a good thing they did. After five years, one in five of the children had developed myopia, and the only environmental factor that was strongly associated with risk was time spent outdoors6. “We thought it was an odd finding,” recalls Mutti, “but it just kept coming up as we did the analyses.” A year later, Rose and her colleagues arrived at much the same conclusion in Australia7. After studying more than 4,000 children at Sydney primary and secondary schools for three years, they found that children who spent less time outside were at greater risk of developing myopia.

Researchers Believe That Outdoor Play Time May Help Prevent Myopia in children

Myopia epidemic: Kids urged to drop devices and go outside – or risk blindness

In this article Dr. David Wilson with the Brien Holden Vision Institute discusses the key findings from his global study of myopia. Below are some of his key concerns from the article:

“It’s very worrying,” said Dr Wilson, adding that the rise in myopia has been linked to increased pressure to study, more time indoors and greater use of iPads and other devices.

Even more concerning was the high numbers of people – particularly young children and teenagers – with high myopia, around minus 5 or more, which can lead to diseases that cause blindness such as glaucoma, retinal detachment, glaucoma and cataracts.

Close work and lack of sunlight causes the eye to elongate, becoming more like a football than round , Dr Wilson said.

Please Call Dr. David Blair Today if You Are Concerned About Myopia 

Myopia is a global epidemic and early diagnosis and treatment are very important to prevent the rapid progression of the disease. If your child is experiencing symptoms of Myopia, or digital eye strain, please give Dr. David Blair’s office a call. Dr. Blair is an expert in the treatment of Myopia.

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