Myopia has emerged as a major health issue in east Asia, because of its increasingly high prevalence in the past few decades (now 80–90% in school-leavers), and because of the sight-threatening pathologies associated with high myopia, which now affects 10–20% of those completing secondary schooling in this part of the world.
Similar, but less marked, changes are occurring in other parts of the world. The higher prevalence of myopia in East Asian cities seems to be associated with increasing educational pressures, combined with life-style changes, which have reduced the time children spend outside.
There are no reported major genes for school myopia, although there are several genes associated with high myopia. Any genetic contribution to ethnic differences may be small.
However, to what extent many genes of small effect and gene-environment interactions contribute to variations in school myopia within populations remains to be established. There are promising optical and pharmacological interventions for preventing the development of myopia or slowing its progression, which require further validation, and promising vision-sparing treatments for pathological myopia.