After Asia, myopia is developing quietly in all developed countries and could affect half the world’s population within 30 years, and experts who call for it to make it a public health problem have warned 10% of it.
This disturbance of vision is associated with excessive elongation of the eye (which is the very large distance between the cornea and the retina) resulting in blurred vision beyond a certain distance.
When strong, exceeding -6.00 diopters, it is a disease that increases the risk of various damages (retinal detachment, glaucoma, early cataracts, etc.) that can permanently change eyesight.
«Aujourd’hui, 40% de la population est myope, avec 5 à 10% de myopes forts», an alerté jeudi lors d’une conférence de presse Ramin Tadayoni, chef de service d’ophtalmologie à l’Hôpital Fondation Adolphe de Rothschild , In Paris. He noted that “these two percentages are increasing, and above all, there are more and more children with myopia.”
According to current projections, half of the world’s population in 2050 will be myopic.
So far, cases have appeared to be exploding particularly in Asia. A Lancet publication ten years ago put the prevalence of vision disorder among Asian youth at nearly 90%.
In Japan, China or South Korea, nine out of ten students wear glasses.
“We have a fifteen-year gap with Asia,” Ramin Tadayuni said.
How do we explain such progress in developed countries? In the case of genetic and hereditary factors – a parent’s myopia doubles the risk for their children – the environment appears to play an important role in the development and exacerbation of myopia.
Researchers agree on the fact that he prefers more time spent indoors, less exposure to natural light or even an excessive temptation to see close up.
With a city lifestyle, the risk of myopia is “maximum”, emphasized Jill Martin, an ophthalmologist at the Adolphe de Rothschild Foundation Hospital.
Faced with this observation, many medical treatments or devices are available that aim to prevent or slow the progression of myopia.
Among them are eye drops that contain atropine, night or day contact lenses that reshape the cornea or even glasses with lenses that prevent myopia.
But these solutions are fairly expensive or accessible and there are still many unknowns about their long-term effectiveness.
So-called “refractive” surgery can also improve visual comfort by reshaping, or “planning,” the cornea, without eliminating the risks associated with high myopia.
Jill Martin advocated that “the best prevention in children remains in favor of outdoor activities, to minimize prolonged activities in near vision, and to have regular check-ups.”
Thus, among children who engage in more than 14 hours of outdoor exercise per week, the risk of myopia becomes the same regardless of family history, he explained. Exposure to outside light for two hours a day reduces the risk by three hours.
Ophthalmologists now want awareness: “We need a public health policy” on this issue, Ramin Tadayuni has argued, announcing the creation of the “Myopia Institute” in 2023.
Several Asian countries, including Singapore and China, have paved the way by establishing centers dedicated exclusively to medical care and the search for pathological myopia.
In France, the institute will be supported by an association of patients aimed at avoiding “therapeutic wandering”.
Its founder, Cedric Thain, 49, who has been nearsighted since he was six and has since experienced multiple retinal detachments, hopes to provide patients with a space to talk and information.
But it also creates the opportunity to integrate research protocols to take advantage of innovations as quickly as possible.
“In France, there is little work on myopia specifically, which sometimes makes this disease less known and less supported than some rare ones,” regrets Ramin Tadayoni.
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