talkhealth meets... Jason Higginbotham

Next month opticians, optometrists, GPs and their patients will all be celebrating Myopia Awareness Month. But, do you even know what myopia is? 

Lots of people think that deteriorating eyesight is part and parcel of ageing, but it really isn’t something that should be shrugged off. Myopia, or nearsightedness, occurs when the shape of your eye causes light rays to bend incorrectly which leads to images being focused in front of your retina.

We are excited to be working with Jason Higginbotham to help you brush up on your eye health facts. Before his webinar, we asked him to answer some FAQs. 

watch the webinar here 

When did you first get into eye health and optics? Why are you so interested in it? 

I hadn’t considered optics as a career when I was young, I’d never even been to an eye examination in my life. I kind of fell into optics by accident. However, once I started to study, I started to enjoy it and did well in exams. It all just seemed to grow from there. 

You have launched FYEye, what is this and why is it important?  

I have an interest in R&D, consulting and lecturing on a large range of ophthalmic topics so I decided to form my own business. FYEye allows me to provide a range of consulting services to companies globally. When I started the business, I felt that there was a lack of public knowledge about the impact of modern lifestyles on children’s long-term visual health and so I felt it was necessary to set up a website to hopefully try and alter this.

What is myopia?

Myopia is also known as ‘short-sightedness’. Myopia is usually caused by a growth in the length of the eyeball, known as axial myopia. This eyeball ‘stretching’ can lead to a large number of secondary eye conditions. These include; glaucoma, cataract, myopia macular degeneration (MMD), retinal detachment and many more.

Why is increasing education around myopia (nearsightedness) important?

There really is very little, if any, public health education around myopia. Myopia is more of a problem for children and young adults, though consequences of it are generally experienced in later life. As a parent, I would be horrified if there was an increasingly common sight-threatening condition that no one talks about. 

Why are more people living with myopia these days? 

The levels of myopia have doubled in the past 40 to 50 years. One reason is our changing lifestyles, we are all spending less time outdoors and more time in front of computers and smartphones. By 2050, there will likely be 10 billion people on Earth and it is predicted that 50% of them will have myopia, with 1 billion people having high myopia.

Are there any techniques we can use to prevent myopia from happening?

It is possible to slow down the progression of the condition, but it cannot be reversed. Getting new glasses or day (and night) lenses are all things you can do to slow the condition. Getting young children outdoors more, reducing their screen time and having more breaks from the screen are also all highly effective methods for slowing -  or even preventing - the onset of myopia.

What are some other common eye conditions?

The most common eye conditions are cataracts and macular degeneration. A cataract is very easily treated. In fact, there are nearly 500,000 cataract procedures carried out every year in the U.K and Ireland. Age Related Macular degeneration (AMD) has two main types, dry and wet. Dry AMD is the most common and is untreatable. It is one of the largest causes of untreatable blindness in the world. It is primarily age-related, but myopia is another major cause of the condition.

How do the Summer months affect our eyes?  

Summer months might lead to vernal (allergic) eye conditions like conjunctivitis. Too much sunlight might lead to damage to the front surface of the eyes over many years, but generally, in the UK, this is not a problem! Other than that, the Summer months are not really a threat to our eyes, provided we use sunglasses on very bright days.

What new technological developments are you excited about within eye health and optometry?

Being able to measure the axial length of the eyeball is essential for effective myopia management and monitoring. Most devices that do this are large and expensive and so many optometry practices are unable (or reluctant) to purchase them. There will soon be a small, handheld, portable and affordable optical biometer which will be able to measure axial length. This is particularly exciting as it will allow most practices to engage more fully in myopia management and offer help to so many children and their families.

If you want to learn more about your condition, you should visit our hubs page where you will be able to find the resources to suit you.

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 20 June 2022
Next review: 20 June 2025