Myopia explained: New research uncovers possible causes of nearsightedness

Vancouver, BC
— Research shows that using hand-held devices and living in man-made environments may lead to Myopia (nearsightedness). The two new studies will be presented this week at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s (ARVO) Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Myopia is expected to affect half of the world’s population by 2050. People with more severe myopia have an increased risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts, as well as of developing a detached retina. Myopia can be inherited and is typically discovered in children between the ages of 8 and 12. Myopia can also develop with age, especially if there is an existing genetic predisposition.

Hand-held device app offers innovative way to track myopia data over time and by geographic region
It is known that myopia can develop independent of genetic factors and can worsen due to prolonged and/or frequent use of screens coupled with a decreased amount of time spent outdoors, but there has not been an easy and cost-effective way of tracking incidence and severity data over time by geographic region and age. Mohamed Dirani, PhD, and colleagues have developed a digital data capture method, the Plano app, that can be installed on hand-held devices (i.e., phones and tablets). Parents of the children provided self-reported data regarding socioeconomic status, myopia status and spectacle prescription, and the app captures real time data on device usage behavior. This helps determine incidence of myopia, as well as behavioral patterns that might affect myopia severity over time. More than 21,000 children aged 2 to 16 years from Singapore, India and Malaysia were included in the study. Rates of myopia were notably high among Singaporean children and increased significantly with age.

“One of the strategic objectives of Plano is to innovate the way we collect, store and secure global data on eye health to enable big-data analytics and use of artificial intelligence in the management of myopia in children worldwide,” said Dirani. "As advanced technologic platforms, such as Plano, become available, eye researchers and clinicians must take advantage of these innovative tools that can be used to conduct research, deliver health care, and inform health policy in more scalable, efficient and affordable ways.”
According to Dirani, Plano is expected to be available worldwide by 2020.

Abstract title: A multi-country study of myopia in children: Digital data capture using an innovative application - Plano
Presentation start/end time: Thursday, May 2, 10:30 – 10:45am
Location: West 220
Presentation Number: 6451

The lack of spatial detail in man-made environments may lead to myopia

Indoor and urban environments have been shown to potentially cause myopia, but the reasons for this are unclear. Researchers, led by Daniel I. Flitcroft, MA, D.Phil (oxon,) MBBS, FRCOphth, of Children’s University Hospital, Dublin, collected and analyzed 191 images that represented a range of environments, from the natural world to mixed and man-made outdoor urban spaces to university dorm rooms. The results found that urban outdoor and indoor environments have spatial frequency characteristics that are similar to those of slightly defocused or blurred images.

“Our research shows that the lack of spatial detail in man-made environments is of the same degree as that created by filters that cause myopia to develop in animals’ eyes,” said Flitcroft. “Myopia may actually be an epidemic of our own creation, and this data show how redesigning the visual elements of our environment may help to turn the tide on myopia incidence.”

Abstract title: The Spatial Frequency Content of Urban and Indoor Environments as a Potential Risk Factor for Myopia Development
Presentation start/end time: Thursday, May 2, 10:45 – 11am
Location: West 220
Presentation Number: 6452


The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) is the largest eye and vision research organization in the world. Members include nearly 12,000 eye and vision researchers from over 75 countries. ARVO advances research worldwide into understanding the visual system and preventing, treating and curing its disorders. Learn more at
The 2019 ARVO Annual Meeting will take place in Vancouver, BC from April 28 – May 2. The Meeting is the premiere gathering of nearly 12,000 eye and vision researchers from around the world. During the Meeting, more than 6,600 abstracts will be presented on the latest basic and translational research in eye and vision science.

All abstracts accepted for presentation at the ARVO Annual Meeting represent previously unpublished data and conclusions. This research may be proprietary or may have been submitted for journal publication. Embargo policy: Journalists must seek approval from the presenter(s) before reporting data from paper or poster presentations. Press releases or stories on information presented at the ARVO Annual Meeting may not be released or published until the conclusion of the presentation.

Media contact:
Julene Joy