The word "epidemic" suggests dire consequences for the
other words that it's associated with so it's startling to see
articles in the ophthalmic literature as well as consumer
literature announcing a myopia epidemic. As surprising as it
may be, the incidence of myopia is on the rise worldwide and
is headed for what some very notable authorities categorize
as, indeed, an epidemic.
Of particular prominence is a study conducted by Brian
Holden, PhD, DSc, et al, in Ophthalmology (May 2016)
titled, Global Prevalence of Myopia and High Myopia and
Temporal Trends for 2000 through 2050. The study set out to
determine the current prevalence of myopia and high myopia
worldwide and in selected regions among certain age groups,
and estimate the prevalence of myopia and high myopia
by 2050. It also sought to indicate possible causes for the
increased incident rates. The study included data from 145
other studies covering 2.1 million participants.
The study reported a current worldwide prevalence of
myopia of over 1.4 billion people representing 22.9% of the
total world population, and 163 million people worldwide
with high myopia, representing 2.7%. The study predicts
that by 2050, there will be over 4.7 billion people worldwide
with myopia, representing nearly 50% of the world's
population, and 938 million (nearly a billion) with high
myopia, representing 9.8%. Some regions, such as Asia, will
have percentages above 65% and others at nearly 100%.
These worldwide averages don't tell the entire story because
some regions in the world already have remarkably high myopia
rates . For example, an article in Nature magazine states
that, "East Asia has been gripped by an unprecedented rise
in myopia, also known as short-sightedness. Sixty years ago,
10% to 20% of the Chinese population was short-sighted.
Today, up to 90% of teenagers and young adults are. In Seoul,
a whopping 96.5% of 19-year-old men are short-sighted." The
article also predicts that, "By some estimates, one-third of the
world's population — 2.5 billion people — could be affected
by short-sightedness by the end of this decade."
THE IMPLICATIONS OF MYOPIA
Why is this substantial increase in myopia and high myopia
so important worldwide? There are three main reasons:
economic impact, quality of life, and serious medical
As the global prevalence study suggests, "Uncorrected
refractive error is the most common cause of distance
vision impairment … and the second most common cause
of blindness globally. The economic burden of uncorrected
distance refractive error, largely caused by myopia, was
ARE YOU READY FOR
THE MYOPIA EPIDEMIC?
What's behind the increased prevalence of short-sightedness
and why you should prepare to treat an influx of patients
with the condition.
By Ed De Gennaro