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Invited Commentary
December 2016

Myopia—The Silent Epidemic That Should Not Be Ignored

Author Affiliations
  • 1Singapore Eye Research Institute, Singapore National Eye Centre, Singapore
  • 2Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Academic Clinical Program, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore
JAMA Ophthalmol. 2016;134(12):1363-1364. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2016.4008

It is a commonly held view that ophthalmologists do not care much about myopia, despite the fact that myopia is the most common eye condition worldwide, affecting about 1.5 billion people.1 Why is this so? First, both the general public and eye care professionals do not perceive myopia as a serious sight-threatening problem.2 Myopia is regarded as a minor inconvenience; the condition is not considered a disease and can be managed simply with spectacles, contact lenses, or a refractive surgical procedure. Myopia is thus mostly under the clinical care of optometrists and not specialist ophthalmic surgeons. Second, serious blinding ocular complications are thought to affect only a small number of individuals with high myopia (traditionally defined as a spherical equivalent of −6.00 or −8.00 diopters [D] or worse) and are thought to be uncommon for the larger population with simple myopia (traditionally defined as spherical equivalent of −0.50 to −6.00 D).3 Pathological myopia characterized by early excessive and progressive elongation of the eye with retinal and optic nerve degeneration was reported to be rare.4 Third, at least in Western societies, myopia is not generally regarded as a major public health issue, and thus, the need for increased government funding for research is clear. As a result, our understanding of the epidemiology, public health effect, risk factors, pathogenesis, and treatment options may not have progressed as much for myopia as for other eye conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma, which are actually less common than myopia in terms of the number of people affected.

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