The Myopia Epidemic: A Growing Public Health Crisis Impacting Children Worldwide
Keywords:Myopia, Nearsightedness, Axial elongation, High myopia, Retinal detachment, Outdoor time, Atropine, Glaucoma, Cataracts, Blindness
Myopia, or nearsightedness, has reached epidemic proportions globally, with rates dramatically rising among children and adolescents over the past few decades. This literature review summarizes the current scope and prevalence of the myopia epidemic, highlighting statistics from East Asia where myopia has increased from 10-20% in the mid-20th century to over 90% today in certain populations. Western nations are not immune to this public health crisis, with myopia rates below 50% but steadily increasing. If current trends continue, projections estimate 3.4 billion people, or half the world's population, will be myopic by 2050. Besides genetic predispositions, lifestyle factors like excessive near work and insufficient time outdoors are key drivers of this epidemic. The health consequences are severe, as high myopia is now the leading cause of blindness in many parts of Asia. Retinal detachments, cataracts, glaucoma and other vision-threatening conditions are also more common with high myopia. Public health initiatives promoting outdoor activity, screen time moderation, and early vision screening are urgently needed to curb this epidemic. Environmental design changes to schools and urban areas promoting time outdoors may also help. Pharmaceutical treatments to slow myopia progression show promise but require further research. In summary, the myopia epidemic poses a major threat to global eye health, especially among younger generations. Concerted public health efforts incorporating lifestyle changes, screening programs, and medical treatments are warranted to control this burgeoning crisis and protect vision. The time to act is now, before millions more suffer irreversible vision impairment or blindness from unchecked myopia progression.