Everything you Need to Know about Dealing with Myopia
If you had to guess how many Singaporean students have myopia, what would your guess be?
Nope! A staggering 65% of students at the Primary 6 level suffer from short-sightedness! Yes, Singapore is up there as one of the countries with the highest rate of myopia in the world.
Recent years have seen a huge uptick in myopia cases which have an earlier onset and a much swifter progression from mild to severe. This change can be attributed to our youth being overexposed to electronic devices. Studies show that the earlier the onset of myopia, there will be a heightened chance of the child developing severe myopia in the future. This, in turn, heightens the chance of developing vision-impairing diseases like glaucoma later in life.
What is myopia?
Myopia, or near-sightedness, is a common type of refractive error that generally develops from an early age. This mainly happens due to the elongation of the eyeball. Due to this, the light rays that enter the eye focuses on a focal plane in front of the retina and not directly on the retina.
People who suffer from myopia have trouble looking at faraway objects which appear blurry and out of focus to them. In general, myopia is corrected by wearing spectacles or contact lenses.
How is myopia caused?
Most cases of myopia begin during childhood. Some children who have short-sighted parents might be genetically predisposed towards developing myopia. Myopia is caused when the eyeball becomes too long and does not adhere to the focusing power of the cornea and lens of the eye.
In general, myopia tends to stabilize as one gets older, but there are some cases where myopia continues to progress even in one’s middle ages.
What are the symptoms of myopia?
If you feel that far away objects are often blurry, or you have trouble reading the text on road signs or license plates on the road, you might be suffering from myopia.
As a parent, if you notice your child often squinting his/her eyes or complaining about headaches, your child might have developed myopia. Regardless, I would highly recommend that you bring your child to regular eye screenings to ensure that their vision is good.
Can myopia develop into future eye problems?
Yes, people with high myopia tend to develop conditions like glaucoma and cataracts earlier in adulthood. Having a high myopia degree also increases the chance of retinal tearing, holes and possible retinal detachment.
People with a high myopic degree have an increased risk of macular holes, macular schisis (retinal layers splitting) and retinal bleeding. All of these conditions require surgery to correct.
How is myopia treated?
Nearsightedness can be corrected through spectacles, contact lenses, or refractive surgeries like Lasik. I personally take a preventive approach, focusing on healthy lifestyle choices and developing good habits to prevent myopia from occurring.
How can I best prevent myopia from developing?
Catch it as early as possible!
Once your child starts complaining about difficulty looking at words on the whiteboard, or if you catch him staring too close to the television, book an appointment immediately with an optician or ophthalmologist for an eye examination.
Also, help your children develop good habits like spending more time doing outdoor physical activities, rather than spending the whole day in front of a computer screen or staring at their tablet. Studies have shown that children that spend more time outdoors reduce the risk of myopia developing.
Some good habits to nurture include keeping your books at arm’s length during reading, having good room lighting, adopting good posture and taking a break every half hour from work. Things like properly cleaned contact lenses and having a well-tuned pair of spectacles will go a long way as well.
If all else fails, there are prescription eye drops available that have the effect of slowing down myopia progression. These eye drops work by helping your eye to relax and, guess what, have no adverse side effects! However, do consult your eye doctor before starting any form of eye medication.
For the adults reading this, I’m sure many of you spend hours in front of your computer or laptop screens at work. Give your tired eyes a break! Take a walk and stare at something far away for a few minutes to allow your eyes to refocus and rest.