Nearly five billion people will become myopic by 2050, affecting 50% of the world’s population, according to a new study.
Published in the journal Ophthalmology, researchers also estimate that one-fifth of those affected will have a significantly increased risk of blindness, if the current trend continues.
This rapid increase in the prevalence of short-sightedness globally would see myopia become a leading cause of permanent blindness, the study warns.
Identifying the potential cause of this growth, researchers at the Brien Holden Vision Institute in Australia point to environmental factors, “principally lifestyle changes resulting from a combination of decreased time outdoors and increased near-work activities,” among other factors.
The paper details that these other factors could include light levels, which may be directly related to time outdoors, and diet.
Acknowledging that the predicted growth would lead to a major public health problem, co-author on the study and CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute, Professor Kovin Naidoo, said: “We 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.”
He continued: “These strategies may include increased time outdoors and reduced time spent on near-based activities including electronic devices that require constant focusing up close.
“Furthermore, there are other options such as specially designed spectacle lenses, contact lenses and drug interventions, but increased investment in research is needed to improve the efficacy and access of such interventions.”
Read more about this research in OT’s report on Professor Naidoo’s keynote lecture at 100% Optical, which will be published in the April edition.