Research by a scientist at the University of Houston College of Optometry supports further investigation into how peripheral vision can contribute to myopia and could be a way to slow or prevent the condition altogether.

By 2050, almost 50% of the world (5 billion people) will be nearsighted. This means that if you are not nearsighted and don’t wear glasses, the person sitting next to you will soon be nearsighted.

The World Health Organization described this rapid increase as “alarming”.

Myopia usually grows fastest in children between the ages of 7 and 11 and can be associated with long-term eye health problems, even leading to blindness.

And while the numbers are staggering, the cause of myopia is a mystery. Researchers know that myopia occurs when a child’s developing eyes grow too far from front to back. Instead of focusing images on the retina—the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye—images of distant objects are focused on a point in front of the retina.

How does peripheral vision contribute to myopia?

But the mechanisms that trigger this type of eyeball growth remain elusive. For decades, scientists have advanced the idea that peripheral vision impacts myopia, and now Geunyoung Yoon, the Irvin M. Borish Chair Professor in the UH College of Optometry, is digging deeper and creating new tools to examine the role of vision peripheral in myopia.

“Our long-term goal is to understand the influence of peripheral optical and neural factors on the development of myopia,” said Yoon, who received a $2.1 million grant from the National Ophthalmology Institute to support his work.

Much of the work surrounds orienting blurry peripheral vision.

“We think that the visual system, including the eye, uses this orientation of blurred peripheral vision to determine the direction of eye growth,” Yoon said, according to EurekAlert.

A way to slow down or prevent the condition altogether?

“Also, both the optical and neural properties, including the retina and the brain, are similar, so we think they work together to determine whether the eye needs to grow more or not.”

To determine the mechanisms of peripheral vision, Yoon will develop and implement innovative optical tools, including a compact ocular wavefront scanning sensor, an adaptive vision simulator with open scanning adaptive optics, and individually customized contact lenses.

Once the tools are in place, he will begin a longitudinal study of young people to track their vision over a three-year period.

“It is essential to investigate the mechanisms underlying the development of myopia in order to design effective interventions to control the progression of myopia in children and to delay or ultimately prevent its onset,” said Yoon.

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