Myopia: The world’s next global crisis

The numbers are startling. Here’s some of what you should know about myopia, its possible causes, as well as some recent research.

Tip: More and more eyecare professionals are telling parents to make sure their young children spend some time outside…and how it can potentially impact their vision.

33%Here in the U.S. one third of the population is affected by myopia.

 

BY THE NUMBERS

Here are just a few stats that will likely get your attention.

  • 50%… By the year 2050, reports the World Health Organization, half the world’s population will experience myopia. Fully 20% of those individuals will also be at a significantly increased risk for blindness
  • 33%… Here in the U.S., 33% of the population is affected by myopia.
  • 96%…Talk about a stark contrast with some Asian countries! In South Korea, for example, the rate of myopia for 19-year-olds has skyrocketed—from 18% up to 96% in the last five decades. Those numbers are one reason more attention in being paid to the influence of environmental factors on the development of myopia.
  • 20… The first signs of myopia usually appear after children enter school and continue to develop until around age 20.

 

LIKELY LINKS

  • TRIGGERS… Myopia is triggered by a mix of genetic and environmental factors. Heredity dictates a lot, but recent research suggests that environmental factors do, too.
  • OUTDOOR EFFECT… Ongoing research being conducted at The Ohio State University College of Optometry does, in fact, point to what is being termed “the outdoor effect.” This possible correlation between time spent outside and lower rates of myopia dates back to research findings released in 2007.
  • VITAMIN D… According to the American Optometric Association, “Given that UVB light stimulates production of vitamin D—a nutrient that is thought to support muscle tissue function around the lens of the eye—sunlight might help bolster tissue that maintains the proper eye shape. Some studies have shown myopic people have lower vitamin D levels, but it’s not known if the nutrient exhibits a direct biological effect. The study seeks to define an accurate measurement of vitamin D to build toward defining its role.”
  • DOPAMINE… As reported by the AOA, “Separately, researchers are also scrutinizing visible light for the way it reacts with cells to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that could slow ocular growth. Researchers plan to measure pupillary reaction to light and cellular response.”

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • THE SCHOOL DAY… According to the American Medical Association, a dozen schools in China participated in an experiment in which half the schools added 40 minutes of outdoor activities each day. Over the next three years, the group that spent more time outside had a lower rate of myopia.
  • THE RESULT… Researchers are looking at how both visible and ultraviolet light in sunlight may influence young, developing eyes.
  • THE SUGGESTION… At the very least, more and more eyecare professionals are telling parents to make sure their young children spend some time outside, and how it really can impact their vision.

 

That’s a strong message to deliver. Have you seen an increase in myopic children in your practice? Do you offer suggestions like outside playtime to parents in the hopes of staving off the onset of myopia? Share your experiences and join in the Facebook conversation here.

Erinn Morgan