Recently at a dinner table conversation I got to know about the growing
epidemic of refractive errors in young children and became very interested to
know more about this. Based on my research I would like to inform you about
this growing problem and the silent pandemic that is “short-sightedness or
What is Myopia?
Myopia is blurry distance vision and is commonly called “short-sightedness” or
“near-sightedness”. A person with myopia can see clearly up close – when
reading a book or looking at a phone – but words and object far away look fuzzy
on a blackboard or television
How common is it and why is it a pandemic?
It is estimated that about 30% of the worlds population is myopic and this is
likely to increase to nearly 50% by the year 2050.
Why is it important to address this?
It is one of the main causes of vision impairment and the second highest cause of
blindness. It has also been estimated to cost about US $202 billion in global lost
High myopia is associated with an increased risk of developing sight threatening
conditions like retinal detachment, glaucoma, cataract etc. The risk of developing
sight-threatening problems increases with the degree of myopia. Hence limiting
the incidence and progression of myopia is essential.
What causes myopia?
When the rays of light emanating from an object fall short of the retina the object
appears blurry. If ones imagines the eye to be a camera the rays of light instead
of getting focused on the photographic film gets focused in front of it. This is
commonly due to an excessively elongated eye.
What are the risk factors for myopia?
The exact cause of myopia is not known.
The risk factors that increase the likelihood of myopia include-
Myopia tends to run in families.If one of the parents is myopic, the risk of the child developing the condition is forty percent. The risk is fifty percent if both parents are myopic. Increasing severity of parental myopia leads to a greater risk of myopia in the child
Lack of outdoor activities and excessive near work like reading especially holding the book very close, playing games on handheld devices or computer.
What may be the ways one may suspect myopia?
The child may complain of blurry vision or hold objects close to their face. Small children may sit close to TV screen or partially close their eyes to see far away
screens or objects.
Frequent eye rubbing or excess blinking may be other features that may be observed. Older children may have headaches and hence all children with unexplained headaches need to have an eye check.
What is the treatment for myopia?
Glasses are the primary way to treat myopia. These are provided by your
optician or eye doctor. One should have regular checks as this can progress.
Sometimes contact lenses may also be prescribed.
How does one protect against getting myopia and limit its progression?
- Spend time outdoors as much as possible. It is encouraged to spend no less than
2 hours every day in out door activity.
- Avoid excessive near activity including reading, handheld devices and computer
especially for leisure.
- Take frequent breaks from near work and look into the far distance regularly
- Read with good and as far as possible natural light.
- Do not read while lying down or in moving vehicles
Start from early childhood to get the best of the preventive measures
Are there any treatments to cure myopia?
There are no “cures” for myopia. One may obviate the need for glasses by using
contact lens or having surgery – laser or otherwise. These however do not
reduce the risk of the sight threatening complications.
There are newer treatments to limit the progression of myopia in childhood
including eye drops, specialised glasses or contact lenses.
Hope you have a better idea about the silent pandemic that is Myopia.
For further information go to Global Myopia Awareness Coalition https://www.myopiaawareness.org/