Scientists from the Vision Cooperative Research Centre (Vision CRC) in Australia today announced that myopia, or short-sightedness, can be controlled with new technology. This ground breaking discovery was based on research conducted by Vision CRC partners - the University of Houston College of Optometry and the Brien Holden Vision Institute, located at the University of New South Wales.
Myopia affects over 1.6 billion people globally, with two thirds of those affected living in the Asia region. If unchecked, the number is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2020.
There are 128 million people affected in the United States, which equates to 42% of the population.
Successful basic research on the nature and cause of myopia has led to the discovery that the peripheral retinal image plays a major part in stimulating eye growth and myopia. Large scale clinical trials testing both spectacles and contact lenses designed to control the position of the peripheral image and involving over 500 children in China and Australia, have produced promising results.
With myopia, instead of a distant image being focused on the retina, as it needs to be for clear vision, it is focused in front of the retina. Myopia often occurs when children commence school (ages six to seven), and if left undetected the condition progresses and can adversely impact the child's education and social development.
Professor Brien Holden, CEO of the Vision CRC, explained further, "For hundreds of years focusing defects of the eye have been corrected by simply moving the visual image backwards and forwards with spectacle lenses. Professor Earl Smith from the University of Houston College of Optometry, has demonstrated that if we move the central image onto the retina but leave the peripheral image behind the retina, the peripheral image can drive the eye to elongate, causing myopia to increase."
"The beauty of this new technology is that it addresses this problem by bringing the peripheral image forward, onto or even in front of the retina, and at the same time independently positioning the central image on the retina giving clear vision.
"The commercialisation of this technology is a most important outcome for the CRC program because of the potential vision and eye health benefits," Professor Holden said.
Professor Holden announced that the breakthrough technology has been licensed to Carl Zeiss Vision (CZV) and developed into the first spectacle lens of its kind through a joint project with CZV lens designers. This new spectacle lens will be launched under the ZEISS brand name throughout Asia from April of this year.
The Vision CRC has also licensed its myopia control technology to CIBA VISION for contact lens applications.
Professor Holden added, "Myopia can be a serious eye condition. High myopia significantly increases the risk of cataract, glaucoma, and retinal detachment, all potentially blinding conditions and the public health risk is significant."
Dr Padmaja Sankaridurg, Head of the Myopia Program at Vision CRC, emphasised the nature of the new technology's appeal. "Our unique lens designs act to curve or shift the peripheral image forward, thereby removing the stimulus to axial elongation and myopia progression," she said.
"We are continuing testing in Chinese and Australian children and young adults. So far, the trials have found that the first spectacle lens prototypes based on this new technology slow the rate of progress of myopia by 30% in children six to 12 years of age, where the child has a history of parental myopia," she said.
Professor Smith, from the University of Houston, commented, "Evidence shows that the number of individuals with myopia will dramatically escalate with increasing urbanisation and less outdoor activity".
"As urbanisation has increased in China, the prevalence and average amount of myopia has also increased. Recent evidence indicates that similar trends are occurring in the US and Australia. This ongoing epidemic of vision loss is associated with spiralling health and social costs, especially in many developing countries where over 80% of children have no correcting spectacles or contact lenses," he said.
"This new technology is not just for children either. Over 25% of myopes in the Western world are adult-onset myopes, which often begins at University. We believe that this technology has potential benefits for all myopes," Professor Smith said.