Call for proactive myopia response
Andrew McClean finds out about a new myopia awareness campaign launched by an optometrist
An awareness campaign and educational resources for parents has been launched by optometrist Jason Higginbotham and a team of eye care professionals (ECPs) who specialise in myopia.
The Myopia Focus online portal has been created to make parents more familiar with the condition and connect them with local optical practices.
Higginbotham said he launched the campaign because he was ‘concerned at the lack of understanding and support for what is going on with children’s eyes.’
He explained that increased use of screens, close work and lack of outdoor time were proven to have had a significant impact on myopia becoming an epidemic, which has all been compounded by the genetic element of myopia.
‘We need to highlight the urgent need for proactive myopia management. A personalised eye care plan can significantly decrease the progression of myopia in children by as much as 50% or more. As people are unaware that eye tests in schools are limited, unless parents act and have their child’s eyes tested, myopia may go undetected,’ Higginbotham said.
A Change.org campaign has been set up by Myopia Focus to achieve recognition of myopia as an ocular disease and receive funding from the NHS.
OUTDOOR TIME Higginbotham told Optician that studies showed a definitive correlation between increased screen time, which resulted in reduced outdoor time, and higher incidences and levels of myopia in children.
Optometrist Jason Higginbotham is leading the Myopia Focus campaign
In his experience, screen time was a common question raised by parents, who asked if it was harmful to stare at screens rather than specifically about myopia. Higginbotham said: ‘Most of the time, it’s something ECPs need to remember to raise with parents.
encouraged to increase their outdoor time, importantly ensuring that they don’t just sit using their phones outside. As well as this, they need to take breaks from close work more often and ensure that, when they do, they concentrate on distant viewing out of the window,
“We need to highlight the urgent need for proactive myopia management. A personalised eye care plan can significantly decrease the progression of myopia in children by as much as 50% or more.”
The main concerns about screen time tend to be generic. “Will it cause harm?” as opposed to “Will it lead to increased myopia risk?” The answers given by ECPs need to take into account the evidence around causes and risk factors for myopia.’
Higginbotham said advice to parents should focus on reducing screen time and increasing the distance children hold screens and homework, as well as taking regular breaks. ‘Children should be for example,’ he explained.
Higginbotham said optometrists should discuss taking a 20 second break for every 20 minutes of close work and spend at least two hours outdoors every day. In addition, improving children’s sleep patterns can be achieved by taking actions such as reducing phone use near to sleep time.
‘Primarily, specialist therapeutic lenses (spectacles or contact lenses) have been clinically proven to be the most effective treatments for slowing myopia progression. It’s also important to note that outdoor time has been shown to be most effective in younger children in halting the onset of myopia and is less effective at reducing the progression of myopia once it already exists,’ Higginbotham said.
EDUCATIONAL RESPONSIBILITY Myopia Focus has been backed by Dr Keyur Patel from TK&S Optometrists in Northampton, as well as Bhavin Shah from Central Vision Opticians in London.
Patel said: ‘For many years, it was felt that a refractive solution was all that was needed to “treat” myopia. Since as early as 1998, we have known that increasing myopia with increasing axial length puts our patients at increased risk of (currently) irreversible visual disability and, in the worst cases, blindness. We now have many tools at our disposal to try to reduce the potential levels of myopia, and it is up to ECPs to educate our patients. Myopia Focus provides a valuable resource and I hope it can help kick-start these conversations with parents.’
Shah added there were many parents who have slowed the deterioration of their child’s sight but there were significantly more parents who were unaware of the technology that could help their child.
‘At every eye test, their kid’s eyes get worse and they end up getting stronger glasses. Parents must know that we can break that cycle and reduce the rate of change to help protect their children’s eyes. They need to start as soon as possible to make the biggest impact,’ Shah said.
For more information visit myopiafocus.org. •
6 OPTICIAN 13 May 2022