The numbers are overwhelming and still climbing. Myopia is growing around the world, with a recent study estimating that on average, 30 percent of the world is currently myopic, and by 2050 almost 50 percent (5 billion people) will be myopic, according to the International Myopia Institute. Myopia prevalence is also rising in the U.S., with a reported prevalence of 42 percent, a number that has almost doubled in three decades.

The week of May 13-19 has been designated as Myopia Awareness Week 2024, a global event that aims to raise awareness about juvenile-onset myopia and encourage eyecare professionals to take necessary actions.

“While the exact numbers are missing, we know that the number of children diagnosed with myopia is increasing and that myopia is emerging at younger ages,” said Sandra Block, OD, president of the World Council of Optometry. “We need to take a proactive approach—educate parents, pediatricians, teachers and other stakeholders that myopia is a disease that is occurring earlier and more often, and is yielding more long-term causes of vision impairment. Myopia management needs to be provided more often or even in everyone’s practice.”

 Sandra Block, OD.
Dr. Block noted that about a decade ago, Brien Holden, along with colleagues from the Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI), published data that was “quite alarming.” In their paper, “Global Prevalence of Myopia and High Myopia and Temporal Trends from 2000 Through 2050,” the authors noted that the prevalence of myopia was growing slowly now but was expected to reach pandemic levels. In 2000, there were 1,406 million people with myopia, and that number was expected to triple to 3,361 million, according to data from the article.

“There were many concerns that were raised. First, are there enough practitioners to treat people with myopia? Second, can the patients afford corrections? And third, are the patients even aware of the problem?” Dr. Block asked. She added, “While the knowledge we have gained about risk factors is well accepted in the eyecare community, we are just learning about treatments or interventions that appear to slow the progression of myopia.”

According to Dr. Block, there is clear evidence that moderate or high myopia is tied to the future occurrence of vision impairment. “We have learned that there are also risk factors that are found to coincide with the development of myopia. Some we have no control of, such as family history of myopia, while others are linked to lifestyle such as the amount of time one spends viewing devices. We also know that spending more time outside is protective for children.”

Southern Eye Bank reminds us that Myopia Awareness Week is May 13-19. Image via @SouthernEyeBank on X

In anticipation of Myopia Awareness Week 2024, Review of Myopia Management and the Brien Holden Vision Institute have officially launched the website for the week-long event. A not-for-profit research and development organization working in the ophthalmic space, BHVI invents, prototypes and licenses innovative contact lens designs and intraocular lenses. Within the field of myopia, BHVI’s designs are at the forefront of worldwide ophthalmic industry efforts to slow the progression of near-sightedness in children. The two main components of the collaborative website are the ECP Toolkit and the ECP Clinical Resources.

Other recent myopia initiatives include a partnership between the American Optometric Association (AOA) and CooperVision that saw the launch of The Myopia Collective, a partnership intended to rally the optometry profession and its allies to elevate the standard of care for children with myopia, shifting focus from mere correction to embracing comprehensive treatment. According to the partnership, the backbone of The Myopia Collective will be change agents—ambassadors who will receive specialized training in myopia management within their practices and lead legislative and community advocacy efforts. Up to two change agents will be appointed per U.S. state and several territories, ensuring cross-country representation. Optometrists interested in integrating myopia management into their practices and driving change for children and their families are encouraged to apply by May 17, 2024.

Similarly, the World Council of Optometry (WCO) and CooperVision recently partnered to introduce another tool to help combat myopia, the Myopia Management Navigator, an interactive guide aimed at boosting adoption of a myopia management global standard of care.

“The WCO-CooperVision Myopia Management Navigator was just launched. We are thrilled to have ambassadors from around the world to educate practitioners about myopia management,” Dr. Block said. “The goal is to provide clinicians evidence-based guides through the navigator focusing on the three M’s: mitigation, measurement and management of myopia.”

The International Myopia Institute (IMI) offers a facts and findings information sheet that includes statistics on the impact of myopia and the risk factors involved.

With Myopia Awareness Week just around the corner, Dr. Block noted that the continued work by all parties involved to slow the progression of myopia is more important than ever.

“It is always good to bring the topic of myopia to the forefront especially when there is so much work being done around the globe to find the most effective means to slow the progression, potentially prevent the development, leading to a reduction of the long-term eye health complications that can lead to visual impairment or blindness,” she stated. “All eyecare providers should be shifting in their diagnostic workup/treatment/intervention when they have a child found to be myopic away from simply correcting the refractive error with single vision to considerations for controlling the progression of myopia. The role includes ensuring that the parents are given proper education about myopia, offered options for interventions and are staying up to date on the evidence for myopia management.”

The National Center for Children's Vision and Eye Health offers a fact sheet that provides answers to eight questions parents might have about myopia.