The war on myopia is heating up, and doing nothing is not an option.
Making the public aware of the dangers of short-sightedness is “vital” if the severity of the global myopia epidemic is to be taken seriously – according to the President of the British Contact Lens Association.
Speaking at his Presidential Address at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, Keith Tempany examined the impact myopia was having on eye health across the world and specifically in the UK, where one in five teenagers are now myopic.
When compared to other nations, statistics showed UK-based opticians are less concerned about the spread of myopia than their European counterparts.
Mr Tempany warned the UK must do more to address the condition but stressed that globally the profession isn’t doing enough and what it is doing it is doing too late in the progression to have optimum effect..
He urged the profession to “wake up” and take on board the challenges posed by myopia – with a “revolution in thinking” needed to increase public awareness of the risks of short-sightedness.
He said: “Myopia is too big for one person or one company to own it. The whole profession, the whole industry, needs to come together and craft a message that cuts through to the general public. At the minute they are completely unaware of it until they step into a practice, if they’re lucky.”
The lecture, which was dedicated to the memories of Keith’s friends Tim Bowden and Steve Williams, featured a historical look back at the past 40 years of contact lenses – charting the key revolutions in lens technology such as the emergence of RGP materials, corneal topography and daily disposables.
The 60-strong crowd was also reminded of the importance of adapting their normal fitting routines to suit younger patients, encouraging a new approach to fitting children by taking more time to make them comfortable and winning their trust.
Keith added: “The profession has to get comfortable fitting kids. We’re not great at it.
“Kids are not small adults, they require a different skill set. We have to break down barriers to build trust and make it fun for them, let them enjoy the experience.”
The Address – entitled ‘The Only Constant is Change – Vive La Revolution’ ¬– highlighted the emergence of myopia control, the retardation of myopic progression.
Myopia is twice as prevalent than it was in the 1960s but more time spent outdoors and less digital device usage could slow down the onset of short-sightedness, especially with young people with myopic parents.
Myopia control was described as a “game-changer” and Mr Tempany urged eye care professionals to get on board early in the process to help in the fight against short-sightedness. Keith added: “There’s a battle ahead. By coming together as a profession with a clear strategy and a consistent approach to tackling our ‘enemy’ – it’s a battle that can be won.
“We may not know everything about myopia progression and management but we have enough scientific evidence to know that doing nothing is not an option.”