Locum optometrist guide

Myopia in the spotlight

Why optometrists are turning their attention to myopia management

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Over the past five decades, just as technology and teaching methods have changed, the vision of school pupils has also shifted.

If you entered a UK classroom in the 1960s, there would be half as many children with myopia as there are today.

This was one of the most striking findings of the Northern Ireland Childhood Errors of Refraction study – the largest research project to date examining how children’s vision changes through childhood and adolescence in the UK and Ireland.

Professor Nathan Congdon, of Queen’s University Belfast, highlighted that the prevalence of myopia is growing rapidly and is predicted to affect half of the world’s population by 2050.

People with high levels of myopia have a greater risk over their lifetime of experiencing retinal detachment, myopic degeneration, glaucoma and certain types of cataract.

“Ocular risks primarily have to do with having an eye that is too long for the refractive power of the lens and cornea,” Congdon explained.

He shared that there is evidence suggesting that individuals who spend less time outdoors and a greater amount of time on near work are more likely to develop myopia.

This is particularly the case when excessive near work begins early in life – such as in the pre-school or primary years, Congdon added.

He encouraged locum optometrists to be aware of the latest evidence on management options that are proven to prevent or slow the progression of myopia.

“This will allow you to give the most reliable and effective advice,” Congdon emphasised.

Current options include recommending increased outdoor time and using contact lenses or spectacles that avoid the defocus of light in the retinal periphery.

Researchers are also exploring the effectiveness of low-dose atropine eye drops, although this management option is not currently approved for use in the UK. 

Locum optometrist, Stephanie Kearney, is part of the myopia management team at Glasgow Caledonian University.

She highlighted that what scientists know about myopia has “changed considerably” over the past decade.

“We have really only scratched the surface when it comes to myopia management,” Kearney shared.

“Working in the field of myopia management involves continually keeping myself up to date with current research, critically appraising the evidence and interpreting how the information can be used to inform our current practice in the UK,” she said.

Glasgow Caledonian University is offering an online continuing professional development module on myopia management starting in September 2022. For more information, contact [email protected].