Why the hype about a Myopia Control Clinic?

For entering Vision Science students, vision and eyes may represent relatively unfamiliar territory. However, more likely than not, if you are a graduate student, you will be myopic or near-sighted, a problem of the eye growing too long for its optical power. You may also be wondering why all the recent hype about myopia – why it deserved 2 recent conferences on the topic, including the recent 3-day international myopia conference, and why a myopia control clinic has been added to the Eye Center at UC Berkeley.

At an individual level, myopes are at increased risk of detachment of the retina, a type of maculopathy unique to myopia, as well as of glaucoma and cataracts. While these risks all increase with the amount of myopia/size of the eye, they are not insignificant in the case of low myopia, and all have implications for the quality of both vision and life.

One of two factors driving the renewed interest in myopia is the steep rise in myopia prevalence worldwide, as covered in the recent SF Chronicle article. For example, a recent study found that most (~96%) young adult males in Korea are now myopic. Caring for this population represents a significant public health problem, although has natural benefits for the Optometric and Ophthalmological professions. Also of concern is that these climbing prevalence statistics include a rise in the prevalence of moderate to high myopia and thus associated pathology.

The Doctors aim to give nearsighted kids a 20/20 future article published in the SFGate alludes to the successful application for myopia control of specialty contact lenses (the main purpose of our new clinic), drugs, and behavioral interventions such as having individuals spending more time outdoors.

From a research perspective, these are exciting times. Clearly the visual environment plays an important role in this ocular overgrowth phenomenon – genes cannot mutate quickly enough to explain the changing prevalence statistics. Will it ever be possible to totally prevent myopia? The answer to the latter question lies in improved understanding of both the mechanisms underlying myopia and related diseases and the mechanisms underlying above treatments.

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