American Academy of Ophthalmology Brings Hope to Myopia Epidemic
Light rays travel to the retina of the eye and refract in order for the brain to perceive images. Myopia, more commonly known as nearsightedness, is an eye focusing disorder due to the eye being unable to properly bend light. Due to an elongated shape of the eye, this results in the light refracting in front of the retina, causing the person to be unable to see distant objects clearly.
Image: Experts predict that the most effective way to tackle the myopia epidemic is to put the focus on treating children first.
Believe it or not, this refractive error can be genetically passed down. Many children around the ages 8-12 begin to experience the symptoms of myopia, such as eyestrain, squinting, and even headaches. Even though myopia is not a disease and is not contagious, there are a number of concerns among the ophthalmology community in regards to why having so many cases of myopia around the world can be severe.
There are many reasons why the myopia epidemic should be tackled, one of them being the importance of prioritizing treatment for children with myopia. Leaving myopia uncorrected can increase the potential in developing vision-threatening diseases, such as glaucoma, early cataracts, or retinal detachment. According to Richard L. Abbott, MD, "Kids who develop myopia early in life and progress to high myopia face an uncertain future. They have a 50 percent greater risk of glaucoma, they are 17 percent more likely to need cataract surgery, and have a 6 times greater risk of retinal detachment and retinal tears.” There is a genetic factor to one’s chances of having myopia, but rather than genetics, the dramatic increase in myopia cases seems to be strongly correlated with various environmental factors. For example, with less people going out due to COVID-19, there is no doubt the pandemic has also contributed to the myopia epidemic. As many individuals have resorted to staying indoors, doing pandemic-friendly activities that may require technological devices.
Currently, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is developing a Task Force led by Abbott, in which they promise to address myopia at a national and international level by educating public health communities and raising awareness with pediatric organizations. The Task Force has also recently announced the generous donation from biopharmaceutical company Nevakar Inc., which will be used to support their mission and hopefully distribute proper eye care to children in need.