Myopia: Controlling the heretofore uncontrollable?

Myopia: Controlling the heretofore uncontrollable?

Humans are becoming increasingly shortsighted. That's not a knock against society's growing Now Generation but a statement of fact: Myopia is on the increase, and we're not sure why.

By 2050, half the world's population could be myopic, with nearly one-fifth at significantly increased risk of blindness, claimed a February 2016 study that garnered international attention.

Currently, myopia affects nearly 41 percent of the U.S. population, and it's even more pronounced elsewhere—South Korea, for instance, saw a myopic spike in 20-year-olds from 18 to 95 percent in the past 50 years. That's cause for concern, especially as myopia typically develops first in school-age children.

It's no surprise, then, that parents are searching for answers. A recent CNN article illustrated the plight, titled, "Parents opt for unapproved treatments instead of glasses for their children," and in which parents detail their experiences with nightly wear, orthokeratology (Ortho-K) or even atropine drops.

Myopia is really turning heads, and not just those of parents. So, too, are community eye doctors, academics, manufacturers and public health experts, comprising the greater eye care community, putting their noggins together to better understand the precipitators of this refractive error.

No other profession has the depth of knowledge and experience to be on the forefront of myopia control than optometry.

"(Myopia) seems to be increasing too fast to be explained by genetics," CNN quoted Jeffrey J. Walline, O.D., Ph.D., AOA Contact Lens and Cornea Section past chair, as saying.

"Nobody really knows why the prevalence of myopia is on the rise."

AOA, FDA workshop to study myopia control
That reality is the genesis for a landmark, AOA-sponsored undertaking with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stem myopia's progression—and AOA members are invited to attend with a significant registration discount. "Controlling the Progression of Myopia: Contact Lenses and Future Medical Devices," Sept. 30, is a meeting of the minds from across the international eye care community to discuss myopia and develop a clinical trial to analyze the efficacy of devices slowing myopia's progression. This workshop aims to greatly inform the premarket evaluation of contact lenses and other devices designed to control myopia progression, and will cover discussion points, including:

  • Demographics and natural history of myopia, inside and outside the U.S.
  • Contact lens use in a pediatric population: Behaviors and hygiene
  • Complications of contact lens use
  • Research on devices used to control myopia and U.S. regulation of these devices
  • Challenges to the design of clinical trials and barriers to trial participation and retention

Representing optometry at the workshop, Dr. Walline told AOA Focus that he hopes experts provide a consensus on the variables that are important for the FDA to consider when determining whether companies can advertise their product as "slowing the progression of nearsightedness."

"Right now, contact lens myopia control can only be discussed between the doctor and the patient, so many people don't know about the possibility of fitting their children with contact lenses that may ultimately make them less myopic than they would have been otherwise," Dr. Walline said.

Optometry's intimate involvement in the workshop, alongside international researchers and academics, emphasizes the profession's deep-rooted and innate commitment to eye and vision health. As myopia reaches epidemic proportions nationwide, Christopher J. Quinn, O.D., AOA president-elect and AOA's representative to the workshop, says it will further become a substantial public health problem.

"No other profession has the depth of knowledge and experience to be on the forefront of myopia control than optometry," Dr. Quinn says. "The recently released National Academies study documents the substantial burden visual impairment, including refractive error, has on population health. Additional research directed at unlocking the causes of myopia progression is desperately needed to identify potential treatments that will successfully slow or prevent myopia from progressing."

Published Sept. 15 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (National Academies), the AOA-sponsored "Making Eye Health a Population Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow" report details the toll that lax eye and vision health prioritization has on avoidable vision impairment, bolstering AOA's long-held concerns for fair and equitable access to necessary eye care.

Click here to read more about the National Academies report and how AOA reinforced the gold-standard in eye care, an in-person comprehensive eye examination, to tackle unnecessary vision impairment, such as undiagnosed refractive errors.

Want to participate in the workshop?
What: Controlling the Progression of Myopia: Contact Lenses and Future Medical Devices
Where: FDA White Oak Campus in Silver Spring, Maryland; or via webinar
When: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., ET, Friday, Sept. 30
Questions: Contact the FDA at 800.284.3937, or email registrations@jcahpo.org

Registration closes at 4 p.m., ET, Friday, Sept. 23, for this public workshop.

Space is limited, and doctors must register online prior to the registration deadline to attend either in person or online. Remember: AOA members receive a $150 registration discount.

September 16, 2016

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