The American Optician

Winter 2017

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2 5 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 impairment. 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

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