Taiwan has the highest prevalence of retinal detachment in the world, with 16.4 cases per 100,000 people, according to Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital research commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
The prevalence rate of retinal detachment in Taiwanese aged 20 to 29 is 18.7 cases per 100,000 people — 13 times the rate in the same age group in the Netherlands, the research showed.
The nation’s high retinal detachment rate is associated with the large number of people with high myopia (nearsightedness), Kaoshiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital ophthalmologist Wu Pei-chang (吳佩昌) said, citing National Health Insurance Administration’s statistical data and public health research on the nation’s eye clinics.
Although the prevalence of myopia is increasing in many nations, its prevalence in Taiwan is higher than in most nations, he said.
The WHO recently modified the definition of high myopia from myopia exceeding 600 degrees to 500 degrees, Wu said, adding that people with high myopia have a 10 percent risk of developing retinal detachment.
According to data from the Ministry of the Interior, the population of Taiwanese aged 18 to 65 is about 16.2 million, and estimating that 90 percent of them have myopia, of whom 25 percent have high myopia, about 365,000 people might be at risk of developing retinal detachment or even losing their eyesight, he said.
Retinal detachment is more serious than macular degeneration, floaters, cataract or glaucoma, Wu said, adding that the risk of retinal detachment in people with myopia exceeding 300 degrees is about 10 times the risk in people without myopia.
Retinal detachment can only be treated by surgery, but the recovery rate is only about 60 to 90 percent, he said.
Myopia is caused by increased axial eye length, which can lead to retinal degeneration, damage or retinal lesions, mostly by high myopia, Tri-Service General Hospital’s Ophthalmology Department Director Lu Da-wen (呂大文) said.
The number of young patients with cataract has increased over the past few years, and is likely caused by smartphone use or playing video games for long hours without resting, causing eye fatigue, he said.
Ministry of Education statistics show that the myopia rate among elementary-school students above fourth grade has remained at nearly 50 percent and at more than 70 percent among junior-high school students over the past five years.
Children below the age of eight have about 20/20 vision, but overstraining the eyes can cause myopia, Wu said.
It is important for children and adolescents to learn how to protect their eyes, as the high myopia rate in senior-high school students is nearly 20 percent, Wu said.
This story has been corrected since it was first published.
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