Updated: May 18
According to the World Health Organization, myopia affects approximately 2.6 billion people worldwide, with the number projected to rise to 5 billion (half the World's population) by 2050 . That’s one reason why Australian non-profit the Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) has declared the week of May 22-26, 2023, as Myopia Awareness Week - with its aim of raising awareness about the increasing prevalence of myopia in children worldwide.
Uncorrected myopia is also the largest cause of treatable visual impairment globally, but it is also becoming one of the most significant causes of ocular complications that lead to sight impairment and severe sight impairment (blindness) globally .
BHVI is encouraging optometrists, parents, and advocates through their "Keep An Eye On Myopia," campaign to prioritize myopia management in children as part of the global effort to slow the progression of myopia.
At Myopia Focus, we also share a strong passion for ensuring that myopia management is both accessible and free for all children. In response to this, we have taken the initiative to launch a petition on change.org. Our objective of the petition is to urge the NHS to recognise myopia as an ocular disease formally and to provide complimentary myopia management services to all children in the United Kingdom.
As treatment options for myopia continue to advance and valuable research is published, there is increased evidence of the effectiveness of myopia management in slowing progression, it is therefore crucial for eye care professionals (ECPs) to prioritize it. ECPs need to have a clear understanding of available treatment options and the symptoms, risks, and prevalence of myopia to effectively communicate with patients about incorporating myopia management into their overall eye health plan. By doing so, ECPs can help ensure that myopia management is recognized as an essential component of comprehensive eye care. This is also now part of the guidance from the College of Optometrists.
Jason Higginbotham, Managing Editor of Myopia, commented: "Myopia should be considered as an ocular condition and, to some extent at least, there is evidence of familial and genetic predisposition to the condition. Therefore, if you are myopic, you should ensure that your children, your siblings and their children are screened for myopia. This involves much more than just having a standard eye examination. It is important, for example, that a full lifestyle questionnaire is completed. In an ideal situation, measuring the size of the eyeball, known as axial length, is also important. The most common form of myopia, axial myopia, is the type that causes increased risks of potentially sight-threatening secondary complications.
Apart from a range of myopia therapies, it is important that children and young people reduce their time on smartphones, computers and doing homework and also increase the amount of time they spend outdoors.
Of most importance is ensuring toddlers and young children spend as much time outdoors as possible. This is because of the protective effects of sunlight, but also because by being outside, children are less likely to be using smartphones or doing close-up tasks.
Myopia should also be considered as a 'cradle to grave' eye condition in that even though myopia therapies might be ceased when a patient reaches their mid-twenties, they will always need monitoring more closely for the secondary eye conditions they're at higher risk of developing.
Myopia Awareness Week is vital in increasing awareness of these facts to patients and parents alike."
If you're a parent whose child has been diagnosed with myopia or if they are struggling with their distance vision, we hope you found MyopiaFocus helpful. Please join our community or sign our petition to get the government and NHS to recognise myopia as an ocular disease/severe ocular condition and fund myopia management for children.