Myopia progression in young adults

It is very common to see children develop myopia and get worse over time. We know that adults typically don’t have myopia progression because their eyes have fully developed and stopped growing, just like their height. However, in real life, some young people do have increased prescription numbers year after year. Researchers observed that college students continue to have increased myopia previously in Europe and the US. Now a new study [1] from Australia followed young people for 8 years (20 to 28 years of age) and confirmed this finding.

Among 516 subjects with no myopia, 14% were found to have developed myopia after 8 years. Among 698 subjects with myopia less than 6 diopters, 0.7% were found to have developed high myopia (more than 6 diopters) after 8 years. Among 691 subjects who were included in the progression analysis, 37.8% had myopic shift of 0.50 D or more. On average, the myopic progression was -0.04 D (ranging -0.03 to -0.06) per year, and axial length increase was 0.02 mm (0.014 to 0.025) per year. 

We can see that this is a small myopic shift, but it is a true shift and statistically significant.

So what kind of people are more prone to develop this myopic shift as adults? They found that East Asians were more likely than whites, females were more likely than males, those with myopic parents were more likely than those without myopic parents, and those who spend less time outdoors were more likely to develop more myopia as adults. Interestingly, they used an objective way to evaluate outdoor activities, conjunctival ultraviolet autofluorescence area, as the larger the area, the longer exposure to the sun.

These are also the risk factors of myopia progression in kids. So having myopic parents, being a female, being an East Asian, and spending less time outdoors are just not good in terms of myopia, kids or adults alike. You will notice that no one can change the first 3 risk factors, but the last one is highly modifiable. 

The take home message is that myopia progression can continue into adulthood, though at a much slower rate. And spending more time outside is always a good thing if you don’t want your glasses to get thicker.

Reference: 

[1] Lee SS, Lingham G, Sanfilippo PG, et al. Incidence and Progression of Myopia in Early Adulthood. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online January 06, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2021.5067

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