Myopia (short sightedness) is predicted to affect every second person in Australasia by 2050. Researchers in Sydney working with the World Health Organisation have predicted this to be a global problem. In our part of the world currently 20% of people are myopic, but the predicted rise to 55% by 2050 is very concerning. Worldwide the rate is predicted to be over 50%, and Africa with a very low level of myopia is set to increase 6 times from 2000 to 2050.
While we can correct myopia with glasses, contract lenses, or for adults with laser surgery, the bigger concerns are the underlying eye health changes that occur particularly with higher myopia - classified as those people with -5.00D of myopia or higher.
The eye health risks for our future children and grandchildren are very real causes of blindness, so as optometrists, we are working hard to slow down the progression of myopia in children and teenagers. These approaches are usually tailored to the young person following their regular eye examination. However the community messages revolve around the known risks of children not spending enough time outdoors, and too much near time.
There is also a genetic link, so if you are a myopic parent, your children have double the risk of developing myopia, and if both parents are myopic the risk increases to five time. We can't change our genes, but we can alter the environment for young peoples vision devleopment.
The "myogenic" environments we live in, can be modified - parents and schools just need to know how important time outdoors is, and balancing time spent on near work.