February 20, 2024

Short-sightedness: The next pandemic?

Short-sightedness: The next pandemic?

To suggest short-sightedness (myopia) will become a pandemic might seem dramatic, especially after events since 2020. However by 2050 it's expected as much as 50% of the population will be myopic. That's due mostly to environmental circumstances such as increased screen time and reduced time spent outdoors in sunlight during childhood. Remarkably there is clear evidence both these cause myopia, as well as a strong genetic influence. If both parents you're much more likely to become so yourself.

Typically myopia starts around puberty, typically manifesting as a 12 or 13 year-old noticing increased difficulty seeing the TV or school board. Usually but not always the degree of myopia will increase throughout the teen years, stabilising around 18 years-old, however it can continue to increase up to the 30s. It is usually due to the length of the eye from front-to-back being too long for the focussing mechanism inside the eye. Put simply, the myopic eyeball is too big.

So what, you might ask. I'll get glasses, contact lenses or surgery to correct my myopia. That's true that they will correct the vision but they all come with associated costs. There is also the cosmetic effect of high myopia glasses, no matter how much they are thinned, they will still look obviously strong. The main problem with myopia however is mainly that the health of the eye can be severely affected by having too big an eyeball, ie myopia . Cataract is more common in myopes and requires surgery to correct. Glaucoma is also more common and is the leading cause of blindness in the UK for under 70s. Worryingly glaucoma has no symptoms until it is well advanced and is often detected too late to effectively treat or control. The fact the eyeball is too big also causes the retina within the eye to become stretched and taut. That's a recipe for the retina to either tear, or detach from the inner surface of the eye, both of which are acute ocular emergencies and require urgent treatment. Even with emergency therapy vision is often permanently compromised or lost. Even without the acute emergencies the thinning of the retina causes long term myopic degeneration which can cause untreatable vision loss.

It's clear the ideal solution is not to become myopic at all. Whilst that may not be possible yet it is possible to slow the progression during the crucial teen years with new myopia control technology. These innovative spectacle and/or contact lenses are shown the reduce the progression of myopia by around 60-70%, making a potentially enormous difference in the ultimate spectacle strength by the time the patient is 20 years old. To do so effectively requires careful and regular assessment of the length of the eyeball. At Scott Brown Opticians we're delighted to offer this technology at considerably less cost than our multiple rivals. If you feel you or someone you know could benefit from myopia control please contact us at East Kilbride or Johnstone practices for no-obligation chat.

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