What is myopia and how many people are affected?
Myopia (short-sightedness) is a common, progressive condition of the eye where near objects are in focus but anything in the distance is blurry. The prevalence of myopia has been steadily increasing for some decades and the World Health Organisation has recognised that a myopic ‘epidemic’ is evident, particularly in the Far East.
In Europe and America, around 35 to 40% of the population is myopic (compared to 25% just one generation ago), with figures touching 100% in parts of Asia. In a 2013 study of over 26,000 Taiwan army recruits, 99.6% were found to be myopic, with over 25% demonstrating a ‘high level’ of myopia.
By the year 2050, it is estimated that over half the world’s population will be myopic.
Why does myopia matter?
For young, active people, myopia may seem little more than a nuisance, which can be easily corrected with either conventional spectacles or contact lenses. However, for those wishing to play sports, or swimmers, for example, myopia may exclude an individual from an enjoyable pastime or indeed career opportunities.
In our more advanced years, higher levels of myopia can have a significant impact on the risk of suffering from some more serious eye problems such as glaucoma, retinal detachment and other age-related conditions.
What can be done?
For many years there has been anecdotal evidence to suggest that myopia can be in some way reversed, or indeed the progression ‘slowed’ to a large extent.
Worldwide studies over the last decade have now conclusively demonstrated that there is sufficient evidence to undertake a myopia management programme, with a level of 50% reduction in myopia progression now considered to be a realistic and very achievable target.
How can myopia levels be reduced?
There are several ways of challenging myopic progression, all of which should be carefully considered, especially if there is some family history or link to the condition.
Even before a young person becomes myopic, preventative measures can be taken to reduce or delay the risk of onset. This includes lifestyle and environmental factors.
For young myopic patients in the UK, the use of orthokeratology (reshaping the eye using overnight wear rigid, gas-permeable contact lenses) has been shown to be by far the most effective method of slowing myopic progression, although dual focus contact lenses can have significant benefits too.