The world is facing an impending crisis as the number of people with myopia and presbyopia continues to climb, according to a report released by Brien Holden Vision Institute to coincide with World Sight Day.
Approximately 640 million people suffer from uncorrected refractive error – the leading and most easily avoidable cause of vision loss. The number of people with myopia worldwide stood at nearly 1.4 billion in 2010 and is expected to increase to 2.5 billion by 2020. In 2010, presbyopia affected more than one billion people worldwide and is estimated to grow to 1.5 billion by 2050.
In the report, A Vision for All to See: A report on global eye health and vision care, Professor Brien Holden said, “Vision impairment is one of the world’s major causes of loss of wellbeing – ranking just below HIV/AIDS. If left untreated, conditions like myopia and presbyopia can have an immense impact on people’s visual welfare and social well-being, and ultimately, quality of life.
“In addition to the human costs, global lost productivity resulting from vision impairment, specifically uncorrected refractive error, is estimated at US $202 billion,” said Prof. Holden.
In Singapore alone, approximately 70 per cent of college graduates have myopia, and in China, studies have shown that as many at 78 per cent of children age fifteen have the condition. As a result of the world’s aging population and increased life expectancy, presbyopia is also on the rise.
For most, an eye test and a pair of glasses can help correct the immediate problem of myopia, however this does not treat the underlying cause – elongation of the eye. As someone with myopia ages, their eye continues to elongate, increasing their risk of other eye conditions including retinal damage, detachment, glaucoma and cataract.
“It is critical that we implement the technology we are now developing for slowing the progress of myopia with specially designed Myopia Control contact lenses and spectacles, and lifestyle changes for children. This will significantly reduce the morbidity of high myopia, with Myopic Macular Degeneration becoming the major cause of blindness in Asia, Myopia Control strategies will save the sight of tens, even hundreds of millions of people in the future,” said Professor Holden.
“Vision impairment imposes a vicious circle of poverty and disability on individuals and families,” said Professor Holden. “Poverty can prevent access to eye care services for many people with refractive error and the lack of correction can result in unemployment and further poverty. World Sight Day is an excellent time to remind each other of the importance of getting our eyes tested.”
Research and subsequent action are essential to address the underlying causes of these growing eye conditions and gaps in access to care. Brien Holden Vision Institute is continuously researching and developing breakthrough technologies and products that improve vision – in the near- and long-term. Recognising that these advancements are only helpful if used, the Institute has also trained almost 50,000 eye care personnel around the world to administer eye tests and prescribe glasses.
Read the full report – A Vision for All to See: A report on global eye health and vision care – at www.brienholdenvision.org