Myopia: the epidemic that worries doctors

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In 2050, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), half of the population will be affected by myopia. Today, this vision disorder, which concerns more than 30% of French people, remains, according to specialists, poorly known. Faced with the scale of the phenomenon, the authorities have decided to carry out a prevention campaign.

Soon all short-sighted? According to ophthalmologists, “it’s a real silent epidemic (without virus)” which has been spreading for a few years and mainly among young people. According to the WHO, nearly five billion people in the world could be struck by myopia by 2050, that is to say half of the world’s population.

And if today, 2.5 billion human beings are affected by this vision disorder, twice as many as forty years ago, myopia remains, against all expectations, still poorly understood. In France, from November 21 to 25, the Institute of Medical Education and Prevention (IEMP) is launching its first National Information and Screening Days.

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Between 30% and 35% of French people affected

Myopia is a visual disorder that is characterized by clear near vision but blurred distance vision. “In a ‘normal’ eye, the rays from the object converge and focus exactly on the retina. Conversely, in a myopic eye, the light does not focus on the retina but in front of the retina, which has the effect of blurring the vision”, explains the ARS.

Far from being a simple problem of glasses or lenses, it is even the fourth cause of blindness. “Overall, myopia affects between 30% and 35% of French people, analyzes the Pr Nicolas Leveziel, head of the ophthalmology department at the University Hospital of Poitiers. High myopia represents 5% of the general population, and very high myopia 0.5%.

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A way of life pointed out

Even if myopia would have a genetic predisposition, certain risk factors increase the probability of developing this visual defect.

Phones, tablets, computers… these screens that invade our daily lives are particularly singled out by ophthalmologists. According to an INSEE survey published on Tuesday, at only 2 years old, more than a quarter of children begin to be exposed to screens (excluding television).

Thus, during the first six years of their life, “only four out of ten children are permanently kept away from digital screens”, reveals the Elfe survey (French longitudinal study since childhood).

Too much screen time

On average, 2-year-olds spend almost an hour in front of screens every day. And proof that this trivialization would not be without consequences, more than 20% of young people (0 – 18 years) are affected by myopia.

Other studies also support the idea that a lack of natural light could increase the risk of developing myopia. Spending at least 40 minutes a day outdoors would therefore provide effective protection.

Other triggers: focusing your eyes on nearby objects, such as reading and writing. “An Australian study highlighted the fact that children reading more than two books per week on average were more short-sighted than children who were less keen on reading,” reveals the Institute for Medical Education and Prevention (IEMP).

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Raise awarness

Wrongly considered as a fatality, myopia can be curbed. In order to raise public awareness, the IEMP is organising, until tomorrow, the first edition of the National Myopia Information and Screening Days.

This appointment, which is expected to become recurrent, should allow the population easy access to a health professional to detect the possible onset of myopia or signs of complications linked to established myopia.

Its leitmotif: inform to better protect. To benefit from a screening and/or control examination, simply go to the site www.ensemblecontrelamyopie.fr.

“If the rapid vision examination (10 to 15 minutes) reveals the onset of myopia or signs of complications (for patients who are already myopic), a prescription may be issued and/or a more in-depth assessment will be scheduled if necessary” , indicates the IMPI. The terms of reception vary according to the centers, the consultation and the examination of the vision can be free or paying.

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