The American Optician

Winter 2017

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2 6 estimated to be US$202 billion per annum. There is a substantive economic argument for eliminating uncorrected myopia and other refractive errors." For most Americans, an uncorrected refractive error seems unthinkable. If your vision is blurred, you go to an eye doctor for an examination and get eyeglasses. While we might take obtaining clear vision for granted, it's impossible or nearly impossible in many parts of the world where access to vision care is not available. Vision aids us in all we do, so if someone cannot see well, they cannot work well … or at all. This has huge worldwide economic implications. In the developed world, poor vision means reduced worker efficiency and productivity. In undeveloped countries, it can mean the difference between working and not working. In all parts of the world, clear vision provides a better quality of life, which is fundamental to human wellbeing. The study also indicates that, "… myopia brings further vision challenges because high myopia increases the risk of pathologic ocular changes such as cataract, glaucoma, retinal detachment, and myopic macular degeneration, all of which can cause irreversible vision loss." This means that millions of people in the future will suffer from low vision and/or blindness due to complications from high myopia. CAUSES OF MYOPIA What's causing the staggering projected myopia increases? Genetics has long been known as the cause of myopia and other refractive errors but as the study notes, genetics alone cannot account for the dramatic rise in myopia predicted. Instead, it reports that other studies identify environmental factors, most notably increased near demands on the eyes and a decrease in outdoor exposure, as well as some other factors. A study of Inuit people indicated that increased near work was a factor in causing myopia. In that study, younger people acquired myopia far more frequently than their elders. The culprit was determined to be the increased book work of the youngsters. Other studies indicate this too, especially as it pertains to school work. The increased use of handheld electronic devices may also be a factor. Another study, this one of Chinese ethnicity in Singapore and Sydney , investigated the risk factors of myopia in children. One of the conclusions of the study was that a lower prevalence of myopia was due to increased hours of outdoor activities. Some "high pressure" school programs in the world have children doing school work for countless hours per day, which requires high levels of near work and reduces outdoor time. In developed countries, kids spend hours per day on handheld electronic devices, in addition to their school work. It's clear that more research is needed, but in the meantime, it's important for all ECPs to recognize that myopia is on the rise. Eye doctors need to develop treatment programs for the problem and opticians should be able to discuss the issue intelligently, provide information on myopia treatment and management, and participate in delivering treatments in their office. Ed De Gennarro is Editor Emeritus for First Vision Media Group.

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