By 2050 up to five billion people will be at risk of developing myopia – short-sightedness – according to the latest report. One billion of those individuals will be severe cases. If behavioral interventions and optical treatments are not implemented, then the increased risk of blindness will continue to grow. Current estimates suggest over two billion people in the world suffer from myopia.
Professor Kovin Naidoo of the Brien Holden Vision Institute said, “Today is World Sight Day and Brien Holden Vision Institute is calling on the world – from governments and health agencies, to civil society, parents and schools – to protect the eye health of every child and adult and meet this major public health challenge of our time. Firstly, the public must be made aware that this threat exists. Secondly, we need researchers and public health practitioners to develop effective solutions. Thirdly, eye care professionals need to be better equipped to manage patients at risk.”
Myopia is most common in East Asia where the prevalence is 80 to 90 percent among those not in schools. Rates in the U.S., too, have risen from 25 percent (30 years ago) to 42 percent in 2004.
Professor Naidoo added, “The major concern is with the vast number of people who are likely to progress to high levels of myopia, which brings with it a significantly increased risk of potentially blinding conditions and vision impairment. Myopia is not curable or reversible, but there are promising interventions using optical and behavioral approaches that can help slow the progression and prevent people becoming highly myopic.”
The institute suggests that by reducing a person’s risk by 50 percent it can lead to prevention of high level myopia by 90 percent.
Professor Naidoo continued, “Parents should encourage their children to spend time outdoors for at least two hours each day. They should also ensure children don’t spend too much time on electronic devices, such as tablets, mobile phones, electronic games, television and other activities which requires them to focus close up for long periods. Teachers and parents should ensure that children are screened for vision problems at regular intervals and can also be vigilant in detecting and acting on vision problems among children.”
Currently, there are eye doctors and specialists working on specialized eye glasses and contact lenses, which will be helpful in preventing myopia. “The institute is working with the private sector to develop a myopia management program to ensure that there is a comprehensive management of patients including health promotion and clinical interventions,” Professor Naidoo concluded.