Alarming statistics highlight a lack of knowledge about the risk factors surrounding myopia among parents in Australia and New Zealand (NZ), at a time when the global prevalence of myopia is sky-rocketing.
In Australia, 36% of the population is predicted to be myopic by 2020 and by 2050, that number is set to increase to 55%.
The finding were published in The Australia and NZ Child Myopia Report – A Focus on Future Management, launched by the Australia and NZ Child Myopia Working Group.
65% of Australian parents (with children 0–17 years old) and 69% of New Zealand parents do not know what myopia is
According to Luke Arundel, Chief Clinical Officer, Optometry Australia, “New research shows that 65% of Australian parents (with children 0–17 years old) and 69% of New Zealand parents do not know what myopia is, and only 12% of parents in both countries recognise the health risk that their children might develop later in life from child myopia. In addition to this… 76% and 77% of Australian and New Zealand parents respectively (of children under 12 years) believe being prescribed glasses is the best course of action if a primary school age child is diagnosed with myopia.
“At a time when the profession’s focus is on the importance of managing myopia and ultimately slowing its progression, it is key to have a recommended standard of care that shifts from not only correcting vision but to also include a discussion with parents that explains what myopia is, the increased risks to long-term ocular health myopia brings, and the available approaches that can be used to treat myopia.”
Andrew Sangster, NZ optometrist and Board Member of the NZ Association of Optometrists adds, “One reason for the increase in prevalence of high myopia is that the onset of myopia is occurring earlier in life. In 1983, the typical onset of myopia was at around 11 years of age. However, in 2000, the average onset of myopia was just eight years of age. Reducing the prevalence and impact of myopia and understanding influencing factors is critical.”
The two main risk factors for a child developing myopia that should be discussed with parents are lifestyle and family history.
The likelihood of developing myopia, particularly high myopia increases when one or both parents are myopic. However, the exact link between a family history of myopia and the development of childhood myopia remains uncertain.
LITTLE KNOWN ABOUT LIFESTYLE IMPACTS
It seems very little is known about lifestyle impacts on myopia. Less than 1% of Australian and NZ parents of children aged under 12 years say reducing screen time is the best course of action for primary school aged children diagnosed with myopia. Less than 1% acknowledged the role of increasing the amount of time spent outdoors.
In Australia 91% , and in NZ 93% of parents are unaware of the role prolonged near tasks such as reading or gaming on portable devices can play in myopia prevalence and progression. Additionally, 73% of Australian, and 70% of NZ parents do not know genetics might influence the development of myopia in children.
Joe Tanner, Professional Services Manager, CooperVision ANZ says, “The potential for future vision loss is alarming, so initiatives that highlight the rise of child myopia are an important step in reducing its prevalence and impact. The newly established Child Myopia Working Group, enabled by CooperVision Australia and New Zealand, is an important initiative which aims to set a recommended standard of care for child myopia management in order to slow progression of myopia in children.”
Full story and references available at mivision.com.au