The World Health Organisation is estimating that by 2050, more than half the world's
population will be myopic and 10 per cent will have developed high myopia.
Over the last few decades, optometrists have seen a marked increase in the number of children developing myopia worldwide.
The number of people progressing to severe degrees of myopia is escalating as well.
NZ Optometrist and founding member of the Australia and New Zealand Child
Myopia Working Group, Andrew Sangster, says myopia is an epidemic that needs to be managed to reduce the eye health risks that go along with increasing degrees of myopia.
"If progressive myopic change can be mitigated/slowed, then the risks of sight-threatening complications are reduced."
Sangster says myopia is rapidly becoming a serious health concern worldwide, yet new research shows 69 per cent of NZ parents do not know what myopia is, and only 12 per cent know of the risk that myopia in children might pose later in their lives.
"This is of significant concern given that high myopia is also associated with comorbidities including retinal detachment, glaucoma, cataracts and myopic maculopathy.
"The risk of developing any of these conditions increases along with any increase in myopia."
Sangster says it has been established that managing myopia in its early stages can slow its progression, reducing the potential risk of developing high myopia and its associated conditions later in life.
"This not only involves correcting the blurred distance vision associated with myopia but also employing treatments and strategies proven to slow the progression of myopia in children.
"Routines can be a way of teaching younger children healthy habits, like brushing their teeth, getting some exercise, or washing their hands after using the toilet.
"Building in a routine when it comes to checking your children's eyesight should also be considered."
What to look out for so you know when it is time for a checkup:
• If your child is complaining of blurred vision, headaches or sore, itchy, irritated eyes, these symptoms are associated with eye strain and visual fatigue.
• Is your child is peering at near or distance tasks and possibly needing to get closer to see the tasks well? This sign may indicate that the quality of vision is not up to the needs of the child and may indicate a correction is required to help.
• If you notice your child has a reduced attention/concentration span for tasks, or if their progress at school seems to have slowed, that may suggest they are struggling with the effort of focusing their vision, co-ordinating their eyes and/or processing the information.
• If there is a family history of vision problems such as myopia. Early intervention has been shown to provide improved outcomes.
What does myopia or short-sightedness mean?
Myopia, commonly referred to as near-sightedness or short-sightedness, is a common eye condition that causes blurred distance vision.
It occurs when the eyeball elongates at an abnormal rate. This means the optics of the eye focuses the image in front of where the retina now lies.
The resulting blurred vision is the symptom of myopia called shortsightedness.