Throughout history epidemics have marked some of the worst incidents known to mankind. One of the lesser known events is currently picking up momentum. Just one hundred years ago less than 10% of the US population was nearsighted. Recent estimates put this number at 42%. Although not of the life threatening nature of say the Black Plague which killed off as much as 2/3 of Europe’s population in the 14th century or the 1918 flu pandemic which infected 500 million people across the world and killed up to 100 million people; the Myopia Epidemic is worldwide and is sight threatening all the same.
Myopia is responsible for 5.6% of blindness in US schoolchildren and 8.6% of blindness leading to disability where vision services due to myopic degeneration is required. Worldwide, myopia affects 1.6 billion people and is prevalent in 90% of the Asian population.
Progressive nearsightedness (myopia that increases yearly in children) is also a key factor leading to early onset cataracts, glaucoma, and peripheral retinal disease such as retinal tears and detachments.Myopia is also debilitating to the extent that those affected often will not get out of bed without putting on glasses or leave the bedroom without inserting contact lenses. Although those children with progressive myopia are often great students, they can also be the last ones picked for sports and their “visual world” contracts to within arm’s length. These kids become the couch potato kids that parents worry about. When something like nearsightedness causes such major changes in behavior like these it cannot be ignored.
What Causes Progressive Nearsightedness?Parents commonly ask, “Is it genetics? Academic pressure? Hand held devices like smartphones and tablets? A diet high in sugar, processed foods, and saturated fats? Wearing glasses? Not wearing glasses?” The answer is “Yes” to all of these. And this brings us back to the fact that myopia is steadily increasing in the US. 100 years ago a significant segment of our population didn’t or couldn’t read, spent a lot more time out of doors, and ate much healthier. Is it any wonder that myopia is on the rise here and abroad?
Despite all these causes, we still want our kids to succeed in school and can’t do anything about our ancestry. And although recent studies have shown getting outside for any type of activity for an hour or more per day is helpful, how often will our children’s schedules and the weather allow our kids to do even that?
What Can You Do?However, key studies around the world; such as SMART in the US, ROMIO in Hong Kong, and CRIMP in Australia; have shown Orthokeratology to be a major weapon in the war against progressive myopia. The International Academy of Orthokeratology represents those specialists around the world who are engaged in this pursuit. Via the American Academy of Orthokeratology and Myopia Control’s website (http://www.orthokacademy.com/) practitioners can be located to help you and your children get off “the stronger glasses for each year merry-go-round” that until now has been the go to choice for most eye doctors.
The time is NOW to begin looking for that special doctor, the Orthokeratologist who will help your child not only see clearly without daytime glasses or contact lenses but also slow down the yearly vision changes that continue to “plague” them as well.
Robert Gerowitz, Optometrist-Orthokeratologist