22nd February 2016
Half the world to be short-sighted by 2050
By 2050, half the world's population (nearly 5 billion) will be short-sighted (myopic), with up to one-fifth of them (1 billion) at significantly increased risk of blindness if current trends continue, says a new study.
The number of people with vision loss from high myopia is expected to increase seven-fold from 2000 to 2050, with myopia to become a leading cause of permanent blindness worldwide.
The rapid increase in the prevalence of myopia globally is attributed to, "environmental factors (nurture), principally lifestyle changes resulting from a combination of decreased time outdoors and increased near work activities, among other factors," say study authors from Brien Holden Vision Institute, University of New South Wales Australia and the Singapore Eye Research Institute.
Their findings – published in the journal Ophthalmology – point to a major public health problem. The authors suggest that planning for comprehensive eye care services are needed to manage the rapid increase in high myopes (a five-fold increase from 2000), along with the development of treatments to control the progression of myopia and prevent people from becoming highly myopic.
"We also need to ensure our children receive a regular eye examination from an optometrist or ophthalmologist, preferably each year, so that preventative strategies can be employed if they are at risk," said co-author Professor Kovin Naidoo, CEO of Brien Holden Vision Institute. "These strategies may include increased time outdoors and reduced time spent on near based activities including electronic devices that require constant focussing up close.
"Furthermore, there are other options such as specially designed spectacle lenses and contact lenses or drug interventions, but increased investment in research is needed to improve the efficacy and access of such interventions."