Myopia “has the potential to become a global epidemic” if data predictions reported in recent research are true, CooperVision’s vice president for global professional and clinical affairs, Dr Gary Orsborn told OT.
Referencing research published by the Brien Holden Vision Institute that reported an estimated five billion people will be myopic by 2050, Dr Orsborn said: “Myopia is a leading cause of vision impairment and with prevalence growing so rapidly, it is a major concern.”
For Dr Orsborn, it is important for research to continue to explore why myopia prevalence is increasing at such a sharp rate because there are still many unanswered questions. “We need to further understand why it’s happening in order for us to be able to delay onset and for suitable management options to be established to slow it down,” he said.
Dr Orsborn pointed out that increased myopia prevalence is not restricted to developing countries, nor China or Asia, “where early research first detected the issue.” It is a worldwide problem, he stressed, citing research that found myopia has more than doubled over the last 50 years in the UK alone.
Highlighting the associated implications that growing myopia prevalence can have following vision impairment, Dr Orsborn referenced increased retinal detachment, maculopathy, cataracts and glaucoma, which could have “a huge economic impact regardless of the country.”
“Even in some of the wealthiest nations, the economies will lose billions of dollars in productivity,” he said.
Discussing what practitioners can do to help minimise myopia progression, Dr Orsborn emphasised research that has identified a correlation between the length of time a child spends outdoors to the delayed onset of myopia. “In light of this research, practitioners can certainly play an advisory role in educating parents and encouraging them to make sure their child spends more time outside,” he said.
However, once the onset of myopia has begun the approach that the practitioner should take will change, Dr Orsborn pointed out, explaining that an optical or pharmacological approach can be taken for treatment.
Expanding on the optical approach, he explained that this involves the optometrist introducing a treatment that is able to change the focus of light and reduce progression, adding that this could be spectacles or contact lens-based.
While Dr Orsborn pointed out that studies are currently underway to investigate the most effective treatment option, he believes that when selecting a treatment, practitioners should keep in mind that they are dealing with younger patients.
“Treatment means having a type of correction on them all waking hours,” he said. And for this reason, contact lenses could play an important role in treatment, he added, identifying that “children struggle to wear spectacles all day.”
“Contact lenses do not disrupt distance vision and are like you are not wearing anything at all – that is our goal for any type of contact lens correction,” he said.
In considering contact lenses as a treatment option, Dr Orsborn confirmed that much attention is currently being paid to two types of lenses – ortho-k and dual focus soft contact lenses.
He explained: “There are many clinical trials underway into both ortho-k and myopia control soft contact lenses. This is certainly where I think there will be some positive breakthroughs, especially in introducing treatments in the most convenient soft lens modality, one-day lenses.”
Highlighting the dual need for education and treatment to be considered in partnership when tackling myopia long-term, Dr Orsborn emphasised that as the world’s third largest contact lens manufacturer, “CooperVision is committed to both product development and partnering with practitioners and associations to establish education that can be applied in everyday practice by eye care professionals.”