Myopia, a silent epidemic that is gaining ground

France- Nearly 40% of adults in France are currently nearsighted and experts estimate that 60% could be affected by 2050. The Institute for Medical Education and Prevention (IEMP) is launching a campaign to raise awareness among the French about this still largely misunderstood vision disorder.

Omnipresence of screens and lack of daylight

“Myopia is a global epidemic. There are 2.5 billion myopic people in the world and if nothing is done there will be 5 billion by 2050,” he warns dr Thierry Bour, President of the National Union of Ophthalmologists of France. In France, the prevalence of myopia was 15% in 1950 and has reached 40% today. “In certain regions of Asia, 90% of young adults are affected,” emphasizes Dr. bour

Myopia progresses under the influence of several factors: environmental factors such as the ubiquity of screens, long periods of study, close work and lack of daylight combine with genetic factors: a child is twice as likely to develop myopia if one of his parents is myopic and at 3 to 8 if both parents are.

However, nearsightedness leads to an increased risk of glaucoma, cataracts or retinal detachment. “We have to act quickly to contain the epidemic, and there are means: glasses, contact lenses, eye drops. We can also promote prevention, especially through increased exposure to daylight,” explains Dr. bour

ignorance of the disease

An IPSOS survey conducted in April 2022 among 3,601 participants revealed that 43% of respondents said they suffered from myopia. But every second person does not give a good definition of this visual disorder. Signs of myopia, such as A child’s excessive blinking, frequent headaches or eyestrain, or very small writing are also overlooked by most parents. The institute also notes a lack of knowledge about the risk factors for myopia, such as reading time per day, low sun exposure or even heredity.

Only 23% of respondents know that the more time a child spends outdoors, the lower the risk of myopia. Therefore, they do not know that in order not to become myopic, one must have adequate lighting to engage in an activity on the screen, limit the time spent on close-up activities and spend at least 1 hour a day outdoors. According to the survey, children aged 3 to 6 years spend 3:29 hours a day in front of screens, 11 to 13 year olds 6:54 hours and 13 to 17 year olds 7:28 hours.

In addition, the screening can be largely perfected. A third of respondents are unaware of the need to identify myopia as soon as possible, although two-thirds know that it is advisable to consult an ophthalmologist before starting CP.

The survey also highlights that information about the risks of myopia complications is still insufficient. 8 out of 10 respondents do not know that myopia progresses faster and can lead to complications, including blindness, the earlier myopia begins. This lack of knowledge is also noted among the myopic themselves, of whom only a third have received information about the risks associated with developing their myopia. Finally, 9 out of 10 respondents do not know that refractive surgery does not prevent complications related to myopia. The solutions to curbing myopia are still poorly understood and 61% of respondents think there is not much that can be done to curb it.

Preventive and containment measures must be implemented

For the Pr Dominique Bremond-Gignac, Head of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Necker-Enfants Malades University Hospital: “We need to take various measures to curb myopia in children. Above all, preventive measures such as banning screens, giving preference to outdoor activities, reducing the amount of time you watch close-up and going to bed early. There are also possible braking measures such as glasses with defocusing corrective lenses, defocusing soft contact lenses or rigid orthokeratological lenses worn at night. Microdosing atropine one drop per day is very effective,” she points out.

National information and screening campaign

To make the French aware of this visual disorder, the Institute for Medical Education and Prevention (IEMP) has just launched a national myopia information and screening campaign.

“We have four goals,” he explains dr Bruno Assouly, Director of the IEMP: raising awareness of the risks associated with myopia, promoting the early detection of patients at risk, encouraging patients with severe myopia to undergo regular monitoring, mobilizing health professionals, ophthalmologists and paediatricians to promote a better understanding of myopia.” . A website was put online, including a myopia simulator and a questionnaire for parents. Special access is reserved for doctors with thematic files and clinical cases. In addition, the first edition of the National Myopia Information and Screening Days will take place on November 21-25. They enable French people to find out about myopia and patients at risk to benefit from a screening test in one of the partner centres. “We will call for the mobilization of ophthalmologists and paediatricians on these days. They can register on our website and appear on a map,” says Dr. Assoly. This event should then be repeated every year.

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