February 14, 2022
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House members request update on CDC myopia prevention efforts

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A bipartisan group of U.S. House of Representatives members wrote to the CDC asking about the agency’s efforts to encourage early detection and prevention of childhood myopia.

In the Feb. 11 letter, the 28-member group, led by Congresswoman Angie Craig (D-Minn.) and Congressman John Joyce, MD (R-Pa.), said that myopia “poses the biggest threat to global eye health this century.”

They said the prevalence of myopia among young adults has “skyrocketed” in the past 20 years, and “The current COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the prevalence of myopia, as many children are spending increased hours indoors doing near work activity as they engage in remote learning.”

Home confinement in 2020 appeared to be associated with a significant increase in myopia in children 6 to 8 years old when compared to the 2015 to 2019 time frame, according to a study recently published in JAMA Ophthalmology (Wang et al.). Among 123,535 children screened, the prevalence of myopia was 21.5% vs. 5.7% among 6-year-olds, 26.2% vs. 16.2% among 7-year-olds and 37.2% vs. 27.7% in 8-year-olds. The researchers said they found minimal differences when making the same comparisons in children 9 to 13 years old.

Wang and colleagues cited numerous limitations in the study that could affect interpretation, including use of noncycloplegic refractions and lack of orthokeratology history or ocular biometry data.

“Younger children’s refractive status may be more sensitive to environmental changes than older ages, given the younger children are in a critical period for the development of myopia,” they added.

The members of Congress asked CDC to outline current initiatives related to childhood myopia, specifically:

  • What is the CDC’s level of outreach to inform parents, children, educators or providers about prevention techniques, symptoms and treatment of childhood myopia?
  • Does the CDC have official recommendations for providers about childhood myopia?
  • Are any outreach plans or recommendations under discussion for the future?

They noted that the American Optometric Association recommends that children receive a comprehensive eye exam at least once between the ages of 3 and 5 years and annual eye exams through the age of 18 years.

“With frequent and comprehensive eye examinations, providers are better able to delay the potential onset and slow myopia progression rather than just correcting the visual symptoms experienced later in life,” they said in the letter.

The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety said in a press release that it “applauds” the members of Congress for seeking answers from the CDC on this issue.

“We are hopeful the [CDC] will outline robust, proactive measures to tackle this public health issue, which, if left untreated, will have long-term impacts on our children’s development, opportunity and overall well-being,” alliance chair David Cockrell, OD, said in the release.

“As we continue to face the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing number of Minnesotan physicians and parents are sounding the alarm on how children’s vision is being negatively impacted by the onset of childhood myopia,” Craig said in the press release from the alliance. “Together with the [CDC], I am hopeful we can raise awareness among parents, physicians and other stakeholders to increase early detection of myopia, ensuring our children are able to excel socially, in the classroom and through their developmental years.”

“As a physician, I know firsthand how ... medical conditions like myopia ... if not diagnosed, can affect a child’s development,” Joyce said in the release. “That’s why I am pleased to work alongside Congresswoman Angie Craig and my House colleagues to ensure that physicians are well-equipped, and parents are well-informed on how to detect and treat childhood myopia.”

Reference:

  • Wang J, et al. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2021;doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2020.623.