Myopia is an increasingly prevalent eye disorder, with its incidence expected to reach 52% by 2050. By then, it is predicted that one billion people worldwide will have high myopia with refractive errors of ≥6D and axial lengths of ≥26mm. Ophthalmologist Dr Shanel Sharma says at the current increasing rate of prevalence, we can expect high myopia to become the leading cause of permanent blindness worldwide.
“Blinding complications of myopia – including retinal detachments, neovascular membranes secondary to myopic macular degeneration, glaucoma and pre-senile cataract – make it imperative that all eye health professionals turn their attention to myopia and how we can work collaboratively to not only control its progression in myopic individuals but ultimately, to reduce global onset,” she said.
“Although it has been established that over 400 genes contribute to myopia development, environmental factors are also critical to its development,” Dr Sharma explained.
“A meta-analysis and systemic review established that the incidence of myopia decreases with increased time spent outdoors in hours per week. Furthermore, increasing the time children play outdoors is important to reduce myopia progression. Hence there has been a recent push to encourage children to spend more hours outside to reduce both the incidence and progression of myopia.”
With exposure to the sun presenting a major risk for both skin and ocular diseases, Dr Sharma cautioned that public health initiatives to encourage more time spent outdoors must not be established in isolation.
“Cumulative UVR exposure is related to numerous eye diseases in adulthood. Periorbital skin cancers account for 5-10% of all skin cancers. Like skin cancers, pterygium, pinguecula, ocular surface squamous neoplasia and cortical cataracts are all related to UVR exposure. Age-related macular degeneration has also been associated with UV exposure. The Blue Mountains Eye Study showed that people who spent their working lives outdoors had a higher incidence of AMD and soft drusen.
However, it is possible to simultaneously combat both the complications of childhood UV exposure and the increasing myopia epidemic.
“As eye health professionals we need to educate our patients, their carers and parents on how they can safely spend more time outdoors so that we can reduce the incidence of myopia and its progression without putting them at risk of other UV related diseases.”
Dr Sharma will present the latest research on these topics at a one-day Myopia Progression in Children Conference (MPIC) for eye health professionals on 3 September 2022. The face-to-face event, which will also be broadcast live for registered delegates, will include presentations from two other ophthalmologists with a keen interest in myopia: conference organiser Dr Loren Rose, who recently completed a PhD on myopia, and Dr Trent Sandercoe. The conference, which is CPD accredited for optometrists, will cover the topics of myopia in an Australian context with data on the increasing incidence and younger presentation, the best way to monitor axial length, research regarding intervention (refractive and pharmacological techniques), the impacts of natural light and near work; and workshopping on the use of interferometry-multiple machines; and information including Therapeutic Goods Administration guidelines on Eikance 0.01% which recently became available in Australia. Experts will be on hand to provide guidance and demonstrations. Difficult cases and troubleshooting, including anisometropia, compliance, and systemic disease will be discussed and a Q&A will provide further interactive CPD.
Face-to-face attendance offers up to six interactive plus 4.75 therapeutic CPD hours; virtual attendance offers up to five standard plus 3.75 therapeutic CPD hours.