Updated: Apr 20
Myopia Focus has recently celebrated its first anniversary by conducting a survey to understand awareness of myopia and myopia management treatment options amongst parents. The results show a significant awareness and understanding challenge amongst parents of the risks of this potentially sight-threatening condition.
The survey of 200 UK parents showed that whilst 97% had heard of short-sightedness, only 61% had heard of the more technical name “myopia” and, perhaps unsurprisingly, only 4% had even heard of axial myopia.
There is no doubt that myopia is on the rise, a fact that is particularly concerning as over 1 in 4 parents stated that they have “rarely or never” taken their children for an eye examination. Again, this may be down to people not being fully aware of the importance of regular eye examinations.
Of participants who reported having a short-sighted or myopic child:
94% stated that their child did not receive myopia treatment.
77% said they were unaware of the increased risk of developing eye health conditions in adulthood associated with high myopia.
88% said they were not aware that myopia management treatments were available to reduce the risk of myopia progression.
So, what needs to be done to increase awareness of the myopia challenge? It’s clear that eye care professionals are looking more at myopia management, and of those parents who have heard about myopia management, half said this had been through their optometrist.
Jason Higginbotham, Optometrist and managing editor of Myopia Focus, commented:
“It’s evident that communication is key when it comes to MM. Many of the survey’s participants said their perception of myopia and knowledge of myopia management had changed just by taking the survey and learning more about the risks. 63% said they were more likely to consider myopia management treatments."
Talking about the idea behind the survey, Myopia Focus’s Head of Marketing, Richard Kadri-Langford, said:
“As a high myope and parent of myopic children, before I discovered myopia management, I very much thought of myopia as something that was annoying and that because “short-sightedness” is so common and well known, that in general people really don’t take much interest in it."
We undertook this survey to test that theory. For example, we asked parents of non-myopic children, how concerned they would be if they were told their child needed glasses to correct short-sightedness. 74% were not concerned. Even amongst parents whose children were identified as myopic, 65% just “thought that they would need corrective lenses (glasses)” versus 33% who were concerned about their future eye health/vision.
However, just by undertaking the survey, learning a bit more about the condition and seeing some of the stats regarding the increased risk associated with unmanaged myopia, many respondents’ eyes were opened, with 81% of parents with myopic children being “more concerned.”
Whilst we strongly believe that “scare tactics” are not the answer and should be avoided, communication through the expert opinion of optometrists supported by accurate facts and figures is critical, leaving it up to parents to decide the best way forward.”
This is perhaps best illustrated by respondents' answers to a question about what would influence their decision to choose myopia management. According to the participants, the top three factors that would most influence their consideration of myopia management for their child are long-term risks, optometrists' advice, and factual information. Many highlighted that although the costs were high, and for many prohibitive, all wanted the best care for their children’s eyes.
MyopiaFocus.org has an ongoing petition that aims to try and change the way children’s eye care is funded in the UK and that the government takes a positive stance to help reduce the risks to today’s young generations. Furthermore, the petition aims to avoid a possible two-tier system, where children from less wealthy backgrounds will lack access to effective myopia therapies. This could mean in decades to come; those poorer children will be at higher risk of conditions that could lead to sight impairment or severe sight impairment.
We believe this is not acceptable, especially in a wealthy nation.
Higginbotham, concluded, “Myopia is real, and it is likely to worsen as lifestyles become increasingly dependent on smartphones, poor sleep patterns, less time outdoors and as the familial predisposition increases in future generations. The optometry profession is best placed to help manage myopia and make a real difference in reducing future secondary complications, or at least their severity.
The profession must make a greater effort in communicating to parents and children and encouraging earlier eye examinations and screening of myopia. The current funding from the NHS is derisory and that needs to change urgently.”
For more information and to sign the petition, visit www.change.org/myopiafocus