2 May 2019
Source: IAPB/Brien Holden Institute
Approximately half of the world’s population, including children, live in towns and cities; by 2050, nearly 70% will live in urban areas. The urban landscape dominated by concentrated areas of high-rise, high-density buildings with proximity to services and industries is not only powering the economic engine of nations but transforming the way our children see the world.
The ‘average’ child of this century lives in a high-rise apartment complex, is transported to most activities (including school) and spends ever-increasing time indoors watching television or playing on tablets or smartphones. Alternatively, they are likely to dwell in the sprawling, ill-planned, cramped spaces in marginalised communities on city fringes. Either way, outdoor time is limited. This localised and restricted environment confers unique challenges with respect to eye health for today’s young.
The onslaught of Myopia
In 2010, just over 28% of the world’s population were affected by Myopia (short-sightedness). This is predicted to rise to 34% by 2020 and nearly 50% by 2050. In some Asian countries, 70% of those 17 or above are Myopic , as are 97% of 19-year-old male army conscripts in South Korea . Myopia commonly onsets in childhood and is due to a mismatch between the eyeball length and its optical power, resulting in light focussing in front of the retina and thus causing blurred distance vision. Myopia is commonly corrected using spectacles or contact lenses; however, since the underlying mechanism of increasing eyeball length is not addressed, the condition commonly progresses until young adulthood and necessitates regular eye examinations to maintain adequate vision. Additionally, there is a more sinister side to Myopia. High levels (-5.00D or worse) increase the risk of sight-threatening conditions including retinal detachment, Cataract and Glaucoma. In addition, highly Myopic eyes are at risk of Myopic Macular Degeneration, a condition fast-emerging as a leading cause of blindness in Asia and other parts of the world.
Also see the College of Optometrists: Consensus Statement Myopia Management