We are all literally becoming more myopic – Tips & Results

how far can you see

According to a 2019 study, more than 32 percent of the world’s population has myopia, or nearsightedness Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science Diary. The study predicts that by 2050, nearly 60 percent of the world’s population will have some degree of myopia, mostly in developed countries.

The highest levels of myopia are found in Asian cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China. Since 2000, however, cases have increased by nearly 14 percent in the United States and nearly 15 percent in Western Europe.

“Myopia has become an epidemic,” Dr. Fuensanta Vera-Diaz, Associate Professor at the New England College of Optometry. “The prevalence is so high and will continue to be higher unless we do something about it.”

Myopia is the rapid elongation of the eyeball, causing blurry vision at best when looking at distant objects. It tends to develop in childhood, with most myopic children being diagnosed between the ages of three and 12, according to the American Optometric Association.

For a long time, the medical community has more or less accepted that patients can simply wear glasses or contacts and get on with their lives, Vera-Diaz said. However, recent studies have found that myopia significantly increases the likelihood of debilitating diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, myopic maculopathy and retinal detachment, some of which can lead to blindness.

Myopia is not curable. Glasses, contact lenses, and LASIK surgery can correct vision but cannot reverse the lengthening of the eyeball. Myopia is graded from mild to severe, and all grades increase, pushing some children toward semi-blindness even faster.

“I’ve been practicing for 15 years now and my general impression is that I’m seeing more of it [myopia], and it’s not just the small amounts,” Dr. Aaron Miller, an eye surgeon in Houston and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “I’m also seeing more kids who started with a light amount, but progress is faster.”

Doctors agree that genetics play a role in determining a person’s vision. If Sally’s parents are genetically short-sighted, she is also predisposed to it. At the moment, it’s impossible to say with scientific certainty why Sally is myopic, unlike her nearsighted pal Joe, whose parents are sighted. There is no exact test that determines the cause in people; we can only recognize global trends and draw correlations.

A common cause of increases in myopia in children is something you’ve probably already guessed: screen time. According to a 2018 study by the American Optometric Association, four out of five parents say their children spend at least an hour a day in front of a computer or mobile device. Miller argued that parents tend to grossly underestimate how much screen time their school-age child actually gets. Doctors say the constant close-up interactions could cause the eye to lengthen.

Screen time is a common culprit for increases in myopia.

“We’re teaching kids to use tablets and devices up close and more often,” said Dr. Barbara Horn, President of the American Optometric Association. “There are currently many studies evaluating this. We look forward to further results.”

In the US, however, the rise in myopia began before 1999, well before smartphones or 24/7 devices were used with children, Vera-Diaz argued.

In fact, most existing studies blame the fact that children don’t go outside as much as they used to.

While no nation or ethnicity is immune, myopia has a head start in regions of East and Southeast Asia, where students have spent nearly 10 hours in school followed by three hours of homework for decades. In the US, the school day lasts about seven hours, followed by about one to three hours of homework. Your skills near work could cause the eyes to lengthen. These skills include screen time, but also homework and reading.

“[Students’] Eyes are not yet developed and they go through this competitive training inside. There is no doubt that this affects their vision,” said Vera-Diaz. “What we see influences the development of the eye. We know that from animal models.”

While we don’t know exactly how spending time outdoors affects the prevention of myopia, one theory is that exposure to light helps the eye stay sharp. according to dr Donald Mutti, a professor at Ohio State University College of Optometry, says that even a gray rainy day produces ten times more lux, or brightness units, outdoors than indoors.

“The theory is that this bright light stimulates specialized cells in the retina to produce more dopamine, which can slow the growth of the eye,” Mutti said. “It could interrupt the process that drives children’s eyes to myopia.”

Vera-Diaz said other nuanced outdoor processes could help slow eye growth, including the exercise of hyperopia, peripheral stimuli, and the interplay between central and peripheral vision.

A 2017 Chinese study attempted to recreate nature by installing glass walls on four sides of a classroom. The results were inconclusive regarding myopia.

“To be honest, just go out there,” Vera-Diaz said.

According to Mom, if a child is genetically myopic, spending time outdoors probably won’t do much to slow down progress. But for kids who can develop myopia due to environmental exposure, he recommended spending two hours a day, or 14 hours a week, outdoors. By the time kids are 12, it’s probably too late to stem the tide, Mutti said. In fact, the sooner the better.

To help slow the progression of myopia in children, the FDA recently approved the MiSight contact lens. Other treatments show promise, such as eye drops containing a low dose of a chemical called atropine and orthokeratology lenses that would reshape the cornea while the child sleeps.

“To be honest, just go outside.”

dr Fuensanta Vera Diaz

Miller recommended consistent eye exams and early involvement of an ophthalmologist in a child’s myopia management.

Unfortunately, the treatment and consequences of myopia cost a lot of money. In the US, myopia is more expensive than heart failure, lung and breast cancer, according to a 2018 study. According to Miller, poorer communities will be affected.

“There’s the uninsured, and awareness is an issue,” Miller said. “Furthermore, these children depend on someone to take them to appointments and are at the mercy of their parents or caregivers. Some individuals who live in communities where they are underserved don’t have that kind of advocate for them.”

Are we sprinting into a near future where everyone is blind and dependent on artificial intelligence? Or a dystopia where poorer people go blind and go untreated while the rich control all the seeing robots and self-driving cars?

The doctors hope that prevention will prevail, because we are certainly not prepared for such a future. So much about myopia still remains a mystery.

“Even some of the treatments we use we don’t fully understand how they work. We hypothesize how they work,” Miller said. “There is certainly concern that our eye health is at great risk.”

Halley Bondy is a writer based in Brooklyn. Most recently, she wrote for The Outline about how WebMd makes us all sick.

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