Have you taken a moment to really sit down and think about myopia? Studies show 42% of the US population is myopic; up from 25% since 1971. In Asian countries, the condition is even more prevalent with up to 90% of school age children being near sighted. Globally, the World Health Organization reports 2.5 billion people are myopic, but that number is projected to double to 5 billion by 2050, a statistic that influenced the organization to name myopia as a global epidemic.
As eyecare providers, many of us think of myopia as a benign refractive condition. We prescribe glasses or contact lenses, and schedule our patients back for an exam in 1 year. But for the nearly 10 million Americans that are highly myopic, this condition is far from benign. 820,000 of these patients these patients have degenerative myopia that could lead to blindness in the course of their lifetime due to retinal detachment, glaucoma, or myopic maculopathy all as a result of their progressive near sightedness.
Dr. Ryan Parker is an optometrist and Director of Professional Education at Essilor, and in this podcast he provides insight about how ODs and eyecare providers must change their way of thinking to better serve our patients and raise awareness of the risks of progressive myopia. It starts with a simple philosophy change: myopia Is NOT a benign refractive condition; it can progress to an ocular disease. In his practice, he compares myopia to ocular hypertension. OHT a benign condition that we monitor closely to make sure the patient doesn’t cross over to the disease state of glaucoma. That’s what we as optometrists need to do for myopia.
Studies show both genetics and environment are playing major roles in the development and progression of myopia in children. The average American’s lifestyle has greatly changed since the 1970s when myopia levels were down at 25%. We live overwhelmingly indoor lives, and do extensive near work on tablets, computers and phones. To properly discuss and prescribe for myopia, we need to prescribe lifestyle changes – not just write a numeric prescription.
In 2019, Essilor’s mission is to spread awareness about myopia and the importance of routine eyecare. Dr. Parker shares the goal has two major targets:
- Raise awareness among the public directly about myopia and increase the rate at which children and adults are scheduling eye exams.
- Change the mindset of our fellow optometric colleagues and raise awareness of myopia as a potential disease state.
To accomplish this mission, Dr. Parker states that Essilor will be working with a panel of key opinion leaders on myopia to help lead discussions and education in 2019. They will also be gathering data across a number of myopia studies to create myopia management protocols with a focus on providing information to doctors in a digestible, approachable format. Being a myopia advocate in your community should be easy, and Dr. Parker’s team at Essilor aims to provide easy to use tools to start that informed conversation with patients.
Dr. Parker encourages doctors young and old to be open to change. The standard of care for how we manage and prescribe for myopia in children is changing. There is real possibility as data and protocols for management become more established where prescribing standard single vision lenses for children with progressing myopia does not meet standard of care. Be open to changing how frequently we see back children suspicious for large myopic shifts. Instead of waiting a year to check on a patient that’s at high risk (due to highly myopic parents, or being outside of age norms for expected prescription), bringing the patient back for a refraction in 6 months might be more appropriate.
What tools are available to aid you as you become a myopia advocate? In the exam room, Dr. Parker makes use of the Brien Holden Vision Institute Myopia Calculator to educate parents and patients about their risks for progression. Essilor’s newly released Out of Focus movie is playing in select theaters across the US before the main movie begins to show a parent what their child goes through as an uncorrected myope. Doctors can go to essilorshare.com to download the 1 minute film and use it in your practice for patient education!
In 2019, we know we need to start small. We can’t stop or eradicate myopia overnight. Goal one has to be simply raising awareness. Sit back and think about the next myope in your chair. What do you think their progression is going to be? What’s their risk of changing over from a refractive condition to a degenerative condition? And what is your local community’s awareness about the prevalence of myopia and importance of eye exams?
Learn more about how you can become a myopia advocate and grow not only your practice, but the greater community of eyecare in this podcast!