Myopia cases on the rise

Short-sightedness or in medical terms, Myopia is growing at an alarming rate across the globe. The World Health Organization is even predicting that half the world’s population will suffer from short-sightedness by 2050. And Bhutan is not an exception. According to reports from the health ministry, the country recorded more than 53,000 cases of eye disorders with cases of myopia at the top of the list, last year. And experts say the figure is only growing rapidly. A person diagnosed with myopia or short-sightedness has trouble seeing distant objects.

With the change in lifestyle, most people tend to spend more time indoors, on phones and computer screens. While some may be aware, many may not know the damage this is causing to our eye sights.

Experts around the world attribute excessive screen time as one of the major causes of the increase in cases of short-sightedness.

Doctors in the country have also noticed and recorded an increase in cases of short-sightedness over the years. Although there is no definite figure on short-sightedness, the cases of eye disorders went from around 20,000 in 2018 to over 53,000 in 2022 according to the Annual Health Report. And in all the reports, myopia was the most recorded case.

Eye specialists say that taking care of our sight is essential in fighting what the doctors call “epidemic”.

“We need to really minimize close work, keep distance, the distance you have to maintain, and reduce time spent on mobile and all. Spend time outdoors. And if anybody has any refractive error, get it checked, refractive error has to be corrected,” said Dr Nor Tshering Lepcha, an eye specialist.

He added that the condition can be corrected by wearing glasses upon consulting eye specialists.

As distressing as the rise in cases of shortsightedness is, it gets worse when considering how the rate is especially high in children.

“What we are doing now is, for early detection, we are training our maternal and child nursing staff, on how to examine the newborns. And when they come for immunization, how to check ocular problems. After that, we need to set up a system where during preschool, we need to have at least one eye exam for the children,” said Dr Nor Tshering Lepcha.

And the Ministry of Health’s efforts to fight eye problems do not end there. The ministry has also set up a school health programme where the health officials follow up on students and provide them with necessary treatment if needed.

Despite awareness programmes and corrective measures in place, the number of shortsightedness cases is only increasing by the year. With more people accessing screen devices, experts warn that it will be difficult to reverse the trend anytime soon.

Karma Samten Wangda

Edited by Phub Gyem

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