High myopia increases risk of eye diseases

In a letter last Friday ("Understand difference between opticians and optometrists"), Dr Koh Liang Hwee highlighted the importance of regular eye-health checks and the role of optometrists in providing primary eye care to the public, not only in refraction to prescribe vision correction, but also to detect common eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

In a recent scientific publication in the journal Ophthalmology, it was estimated that half the world's population will be short-sighted by 2050, with up to one-fifth of short-sighted people estimated to be highly myopic (-5.00D or more).

High myopia increases the risk of eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma, retinal detachment and myopia macular degeneration, all of which can cause irreversible vision loss.

In some of the relevant studies quoted in Ophthalmology, high myopia increases the risks of glaucoma by 14.4 times (for -6.00D or more), retinal detachment by 7.8 times (for -8.00D or more) and cataract by 3.3 times (for -6.00D or more).

In a November 2015 publication in the journal Clinical And Experimental Optometry, it was estimated that nearly half the population in Singapore will have high myopia (-5.00D or more) by 2050.

These have important implications for comprehensive eye-care services, including refractive services; managing and preventing eye diseases related to myopia, particularly potential vision loss among people with high myopia; and the role of optometrists in providing primary eye-care services.

The public should be aware that they need to have their eyes checked regularly, not only for refraction purposes, but also for eye health.

Tan Kah Ooi (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2016, with the headline 'High myopia increases risk of eye diseases'. Print Edition | Subscribe