Myopia: precedents for research in the twenty-first century

Bernard Gilmartin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The myopic eye is generally considered to be a vulnerable eye and, at levels greater than 6 D, one that is especially susceptible to a range of ocular pathologies. There is concern therefore that the prevalence of myopia in young adolescent eyes has increased substantially over recent decades and is now approaching 10-25% and 60-80%, respectively, in industrialized societies of the West and East. Whereas it is clear that the major structural correlate of myopia is longitudinal elongation of the posterior vitreous chamber, other potential correlates include profiles of lenticular and corneal power, the relationship between longitudinal and transverse vitreous chamber dimensions and ocular volume. The most potent predictors for juvenile-onset myopia continue to be a refractive error ≤+0.50 D at 5 years of age and family history. Significant and continuing progress is being made on the genetic characteristics of high myopia with at least four chromosomes currently identified. Twin studies and genetic modelling have computed a heritability index of at least 80% across the whole ametropic continuum. The high index does not, however, preclude an environmental precursor, sustained near work with high cognitive demand being the most likely. The significance of associations between accommodation, oculomotor dysfunction and human myopia is equivocal despite animal models that have demonstrated that sustained hyperopic defocus can induce vitreous chamber growth. Recent optical and pharmaceutical approaches to the reduction of myopia progression in children are likely precedents for future research, for example progressive addition spectacle lens trials and the use of the topical MI muscarinic antagonist pirenzepine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-324
Number of pages20
JournalClinical and Experimental Ophthalmology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004

Bibliographical note

Based on a Keynote presentation to the Xth Annual International Refractive Surgery Congress, British Society for Refractive Surgery, Royal College of Physicians, London, UK, May 2003. The definitive version is available at Acknowledgement to the Journal, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists and Blackwell Publishing


  • accommodation
  • biometry
  • epidemiology
  • heredity
  • myopia
  • ocular


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