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Home » News » The Alarming Increase and Incidence of Myopia

The Alarming Increase and Incidence of Myopia

As this author has stated during numerous personal interactions and is almost universally accepted by experts, the numbers of myopia patients, and especially among young people, has been experiencing a near-epidemic rise world-wide. To wit, myopia is now one of the leading causes of vision loss in the world. Dr. Fuerst often says that "myopia is approaching epidemic proportions, having increased nearly 70% in the US in the last century" and it is estimated to affect 50 percent of the worlFd’s population by 2050. Obviously, the concern with the increasing prevalence of myopia as a global health concern is due to the potentially sight-threatening pathologies such as myopic macular degeneration, choroidal neovascularization, cataract, and glaucoma associated with high myopia.  While these ocular diseases are generally associated with older patients, often the seeds that ultimately cause the eye diseases mentioned above, are sown decades earlier. Indeed, Dr. Fuerst often cautions "it's important for parents to understand that myopia, left untreated, can cause serious vision problems later in life including retinal detachment, cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration."

While the exact mechanisms causing myopia and its progression, particularly in the juvenile population, remain unknown, a number of strong theories exist. One theory that we at EYEcenter subscribe to relates to the fact that the human eye is focused on drastically different stimuli than it historically has been.  Whereas hunter-gatherer societies relied upon their eyes for primarily distance vision, the modern eye is increasingly and continuously adapting to the modern (often, near) environment. The high prevalence of myopia among populations that spend a lot of time doing near vision tasks (school children, people working with computers) further support this hypothesis.

One very popular innovation that may deserve some of the blame is technology, such as computers, television and particularly smartphones. Concomitant with the stark increase in the incidences of myopia, a number of significant technological leaps have been developed and are now commonplace.  For example, the number of smartphone users has doubled in the last 15 years and there are more cellphone plans in the world than there are people! People are using technology and watching and sharing media in a way that was only made possible in the relatively recent past - whether entertainment video, sharing photos, social media, surfing the Internet, or work-related uses and all this can be done on a smartphone screen that may only be a few inches large. 

Regular Eye Exams With Your Family Eye Doctor

Articles are replete with statistics regarding the median age when a child gets his or her first smartphone.  This 'rite of passage' is happening at younger and younger ages. Couple the young and immature smartphone user with a general lack of boundaries, and the result is that some children as young as 8 years old can spend between 4 and 6 hours a day on a mobile device. Dr. Fuerst often laments that "of particular concern is the increase in incidences of myopia in children. Treatment comes in two parts, prevention and intervention. Parents can take steps to limit close work like screen time and consult with their optometrist about ways to manage the impacts of nearsightedness on their kids' lives." The fact that our relatively recent technological advancements coincided with higher and increasingly higher myopia rates while the screens that people are watching are getting smaller and smaller and thus the necessity for keeping the device closer to your eyes does seem to indicate a connection. In all, the question must be pondered, can these changes that are occurring in our lifetimes be causing, at least in part, the worldwide myopia epidemic?

 

 

 

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