China has been gripped by an unprecedented rise in myopia, also known as short-sightedness. Sixty years ago, 10–20% of the Chinese population were short-sighted. Today, up to 90% of teenagers and young adults are.
Other parts of the world have also seen a dramatic increase in the condition, which now affects around half of young adults in the United States and Europe. Short-sightedness generally develops in school-age children and adolescents as the eye grows throughout a child’s early years.
Enter German eye specialists ‘Euroeyes’ who have examined and treated patients with myopia for many years in Europe. In Germany they are the leading centre for sight correction and myopic prevention and have been following the development and progression of myopia among children closely.
Recent research by Euroeyes surgeons has revealed practical insights into halting the progression of short-sightedness as, with their flagship Shanghai clinic, they set their sights on offering high level surgery in the battle against the rising epidemic of short-sightedness in China.
For many years, the scientific consensus held that myopia was largely down to genetics and gene-finding efforts have now linked more than 100 regions of the genome to short-sightedness.
For the Euroeyes clinic, it was obvious that genes could not be the whole story. Genetic changes happen too slowly to explain the soaring rates in myopia that have since been documented all over the world. There must be an environmental effect that has caused such a generational difference.
There was one obvious culprit: TV, smartphones & computer screens. The modern rise in myopia mirrored a trend for children in many countries to spend more time glued to computer and smartphone screens. Bookwork was also found to be a key issue. The average 15-year-old in Shanghai now spends 14 hours per week on homework, compared with 5 hours in the United Kingdom and 6 hours in the United States. The research documented a strong association between measures of education and the prevalence of myopia.
After studying more than 4,000 children at Sydney primary and secondary schools for three years, researchers found that children who spent less time outside were at greater risk of developing myopia. Close work has a significant effect, but what seemed to matter most was the eye’s exposure to bright light.
The leading theory is that light stimulates the release of dopamine in the retina, and this neurotransmitter in-turn blocks the elongation of the eye during development. Researchers now suspect that under dim (typically indoor) lighting, the cycle is disrupted, with consequences for eye growth. With more children growing up glued to screens indoors, eye growth is being detrimentally affected from a young age on a mass scale.
In some places, children cannot get more outdoor light: there are too few hours of daylight, the sun is too fierce, or the cold too intense. Animal researchhas suggested that powerful indoor lights could be the solution: light boxes currently sold to treat seasonal affective disorder, for example, can deliver up to 10,000 lux of illumination but their effects on myopia have not been tested extensively on humans.
Meanwhile, Euroeyes have been working on ways to prevent short-sightedness from worsening. The have developed special glasses and contact lenses that can alter eye growth by focusing light from distant images across the entire field of view, rather than just at the centre, as standard lenses do.
They are examining and treating patients in their Shanghai clinic with plans for expansion across China to meet the rising demand for myopic surgery.
Company Name: Euroeyes
Contact Person: Benjamin Lamb
Phone: +86 400 720 7999 2