Business of Well-being

Visual Acuity: About an Acute Threat to Vision

Eyestrain is a strain on wellness in general and corporate wellness in particular. How we work, continually in front of screens--from computers to phones to tablets--is cause for concern. One such concern is myopia, often called nearsightedness, in which people can see things clearly up close but not from afar.

According to the American Optometric Association: "Even though the tendency to develop myopia may be inherited, its actual development may be affected by how a person uses his or her eyes. Individuals who spend considerable time reading, working at a computer, or doing other intense close visual work may be more likely to develop myopia."

According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), myopia occurs when the eye grows too long from front to back. Myopia is a chronic ailment for 9.6 million of our fellow citizens. It is, based on a recent report by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a degenerative disease for 820,000 patients nationwide. Across the nation, the cases of myopia are on the rise.

Even worse is high myopia, one of several disease-related complications, where the retina further atrophies while unstable blood vessels develop. The results range from glaucoma and cataracts to macular degeneration and retinal detachment. Notwithstanding treatment, persons with this form of severe myopia may experience permanent vision loss.

Consider, too, that the same report from the American Academy of Ophthalmology says that by the year 2050, 4.8 billion people will be nearsighted. To see this public health crisis writ small, so to speak, consider this piece from The Independent about how 90% of schoolchildren in China, Singapore, and South Korea are myopic by age 18.

By the time these children mature and enter the workforce, by the time companies seek to establish an environment conducive to wellness, these individuals already have myopia. Dr Caroline Klaver of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam attributes this phenomenon to spending too much time indoors. She says: "Lifestyle in early youth is very much associated with the onset of myopia. Not being outside, and performing lots of near work will increase the risk a lot."

Yes, Children are younger versions of hardworking adults, insofar as they (like us) do not get enough sunlight, period. As for treatments such as corrective lenses like contacts or glasses, or surgical procedures like LASIK or PRK, the results are less than ideal.

Researchers are, however, at the forefront of developing other remedies. Take, for instance, the work of scientists at Eyenovia, where there is a device that can deliver a precise amount of a formulation of the drug atropine for treating myopia. (Since an eyedropper lacks the exactitude necessary to apply the right amount of atropine, technology--like the kind in laser printers--does what was once impossible. As stage three trials advance, and as awareness of myopia becomes more common, delivering a specific amount of atropine offers hope for a cure for this condition.)

Dr David Epley, a pediatric ophthalmologist, says this treatment "gives us a tool to slow down [the] progression of myopia that we didn't have in a safe way before."

Let treatment and technology lead us to a new chapter in the history of corporate wellness.

Let it allow us to be more productive and healthy, so we may see the light.  

About the Author

Michael D. Shaw is a columnist, biochemist, and protegee of the late Willard Libby, the 1960 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He writes about a variety of subjects including wellness, health care, and business leadership.

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