The myopia challenge
Studies predict that the global prevalence of myopia will rise from 28% of the world’s population to 50% by 2050. Optometrist and AOP clinical director, Dr Peter Hampson, discusses the growing prevalence and why it is time to embrace CPD in this field
25 May 2022
If you work in optometry, you’re never too far away from someone uttering the word myopia.
Whether it be the rising numbers – an estimated five billion more people will be myopic by 2050 – or a new treatment in development for managing the condition. Myopia, or more specifically myopia management, is the hot topic – and importantly, it’s here to stay.
And it is no surprise. Amidst predictions of a blurry, short-sighted future comes hope to solve the myopia challenge. Understandably, many optometrists are excited at the prospect of this new area of practice, relishing the opportunity to help their patients and, furthermore, maybe safeguard them from future pathology linked to myopia.
It is widely recognised that effective and accessible myopia management has the potential to change eye health on a global scale. But as with all emerging treatments, it’s important to acknowledge that no intervention is ever risk-free and there is an element of learning ‘on the job’ as more research becomes available. We are still in a space where the evidence base continues to grow – gaining a greater understanding of which treatments work best and for which patients.
As part of your conversations with patients, you also need to develop a skill for avoiding stories that can scare patients into investing in a particular product as well as not over promising its effectiveness
Myopia management as a journey
While outside the UK, low dose atropine has shown the most promise at effectively slowing the progression of myopia, modified multifocal lenses and orthokeratology, licensed for UK use, continue to present supporting evidence. Myopia management treatment options are rapidly evolving and there is still a lot to learn about the options, as well as the best ways in which to measure success.
At the AOP, we advise that members approach myopia management as a journey – follow good practice and stay up to date – you should continue to learn about all the treatment options available, not just the one you have chosen for your practice. Professional education throughout your career is key and if myopia management is not on your radar, now is absolutely the right time to seek out CPD opportunities. A good starting point for reading is OT’s Myopia guide.
At the AOP, we advise that members approach myopia management as a journey – follow good practice and stay up to date
Speaking to patients and raising awareness
Of course, a huge part of myopia management as an eye care practitioner is the interaction we have with the patients and parents at the centre of our care. When speaking to patients about myopia management, it’s important that the information you give is fair and balanced – providing good quality evidence.
Throughout 2020 and 2021, one query we received often was around the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on eye health – firstly, in relation to missed appointments, secondly, regarding the physiological impacts of COVID-19 on the eye, and thirdly, on how increased screen time may have further hastened rising numbers in myopia. It is unlikely that we’ll see the full impact of the pandemic on vision for a number of years, but research globally is indicating a detrimental impact caused by lockdowns.
With frequent, sometimes unbalanced, media stories to that effect, we naturally need to be cautious when relaying the message. So as part of your conversations with patients, you also need to develop a skill for avoiding stories that can scare patients into investing in a particular product as well as not overpromising its effectiveness.
The AOP has produced guidance and a consent form that members can use when explaining the risks associated with myopia and discussing myopia management options, and the risks associated with those options.
It is unlikely that we’ll see the full impact of the pandemic on vision for a number of years, but research globally is indicating a detrimental impact caused by lockdowns
Steps to protect against myopia
While myopia management is the right course of action for some, it’s also good for us to remember that lots of factors play a part in eye health that your patients may simply be unaware of.
I notice this year’s Myopia Awareness Week (23–28 May) is themed around ‘Make your Eye Moves’ – focusing on encouraging activities that promote eye health and reduce the risk of myopia. Practitioners should never forget the importance of reiterating those messages to patients. This is where the AOP’s public facing resources, from explaining the sight test to top tips for keeping eyes healthy, really come into their own. All the resources are free and accessible to members as well as patients and designed in an easy-print format.