If you noticed your eyes are getting worse or more and more of your friends need glasses, that's because of a myopia epidemic that's affecting young people, according to Canadian experts. Myopia is the official name for near-sightedness, or when you have trouble seeing distances. The number of cases in North America has more than doubled since 1972.
In most cases, people with myopia are simply stuck wearing glasses or contacts. Myopia can be much more dangerous than that though. As your near-sightedness gets worse, your eye actually stretches, getting longer and your retina gets thinner. This can lead to bleeding and cracks. People with severe near-sightedness could end up spending the rest of their life legally blind. People with myopia are also at risk for major eye disorders like retinal tearing, glaucoma, and cataracts.
Now, Canadian eye experts at the Université de Montréal warn this is becoming an issue among more and more young people, with the number of cases growing at an epidemic level. This is bad enough news, but the reason for it is even worse. According to experts, young people are more at risk for this myopia epidemic because of our increased amount of screen time.
Langis Michaud is a professor and eye health expert at the Université de Montréal. He says that environmental factors like how much time you spend staring at a screen are a very important factor in cases of myopia.
He specifically makes the link between myopia and smartphones saying that there has been an increase in "visual problems" since 2007 when smartphones were first introduced. He says this is not only because of the blue light they emit but also because holding them at a close distance increases your risk for myopia by eight times.
Michaud also gives advice on how to prevent myopia from happening like suggesting that children under two shouldn't have any screen time at all, kids two to five should only have one hour/day of educational screen time, and that children should get 45 minutes of outdoor daylight every day.
Unfortunately, for many of us glasses-wearing millennials, it's already too late to prevent myopia, but there is still some stuff we can do to prevent it from getting worse. For example, Michaud recommends only one hour of screen time outside of school or work and taking a two-minute break after every half hour or screen-time.
Genetics also play a role in who will get myopia, but other tips for preventing myopia or slowing it down among young people include no screens one hour before bed and regular check-ups with an optometrist who could prescribe a treatment plan with contact lenses or glasses with anti-myopia lenses.