Eye conditions & symptoms 6 min read

Exploring the Global Epidemic of Myopia

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There are more than 2 billion people with myopia across the world, which is why professionals are referring to the eye condition as an epidemic. While it is not infectious, it is still essential to understand what myopia is and how you can manage its occurrence.

It has been predicted that by 2050, half the world's population could have myopia, with a higher prevalence in east Asia. The rates are lower in Australia, Europe and America.

What causes myopia to be so widespread?

You no doubt know someone who is nearsighted; it might even be you or your child. While there is no single definitive cause of myopia, there are some factors that might increase your risk of developing myopia. By understanding these, you can follow the right advice to protect your vision.

Genetics can play a part in becoming myopic, as children could be at higher risk when the parents are short-sighted. The risk is higher if both parents have myopia, and there is still a high risk even if only one parent is nearsighted.

Lifestyle influences can also have a role in your eye health. Modern lifestyles now include lower outdoor activity levels than in previous generations, and many hobbies include prolonged near-vision focus such as reading and playing on digital devices. Think about it; only a few decades ago, you wouldn't have spent as much time on digital devices as you do now. 

Child playing on a tablet indoors

You put your eyes through a lot every day without even realising it! A lot of time spent focusing on something close up can cause your eyes to feel strained, and in children, it has been shown to increase the probability of developing myopia. Taking regular breaks and going outdoors is an easy way to decrease your chances of encountering vision problems, and remember to protect your eyes from UV rays.

Education pressures could also lead to an increased risk of myopia, particularly in children. Stressful studying and revising may mean less exposure to natural light, as well as long periods of focusing on close-up material.  Research shows spending more time outdoors as a child, can reduce your risk of developing myopia. Your children should spend just as much time playing outside as they do sat inside.

Types of myopia

There are also different types of myopia to be aware of. High myopia is a term used to describe a severe level of myopia, usually higher than -6.00D on your prescription. While high myopia itself will not lead to vision loss, it can put you at a higher risk of developing other conditions such as glaucoma or cataracts. Attending routine eye examinations can ensure your optometrist catches early signs of this condition and provide the right treatment.

You may also have heard of progressive myopia; this is where the condition worsens, usually due to the eyeball's ongoing elongation. It usually happens during childhood, but in some cases, it can continue into early adulthood. It can sometimes result in high myopia.

Degenerative myopia is another form of the condition whereby the progression of myopia happens rapidly. This can cause damage to the eyeball and may increase the risk of vision loss.

How to protect your vision from myopia

It may sound rather daunting, and there is no doubt you want to do everything you can to protect yourself and your children from any health problems. You might be glad to know that preventing and even slowing down the progress of myopia is possible. 

The most important thing to remember is to attend regular eye examinations. Every two years is sufficient unless you have been told otherwise by your optician. Uncorrected eyesight can sometimes lead to more vision problems. By staying up-to-date with your eye examinations, you are already taking a step in the right direction to protect your vision; this goes for both adults and children! 

There is currently no cure for myopia, as it relates to the shape of your eye, but by understanding what causes it, you can help to reduce the risk of it developing or progressing further. There are many methods to control myopia, and your optometrist will be able to discuss the best option for your individual needs.

If you are worried about your eye health or your child's vision, be sure to take a look at our guides on myopia, including recognising if your child is short-sighted and understanding more about the causes.

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