By Kinga Aitken-Baboczi MD MPH
Find out why Singapore has one of the highest prevalences of myopia in the world and what can you do to protect your child from developing this condition.
What is Myopia: Myopia or near-sightedness is a common vision problem where the eyeball is either too long or the cornea (clear front cover of the eye) is too curved. The result is that the light entering the eye is not focused correctly on the retina but in front of it, therefore close objects are seen clearly and distant objects appear blurred.
According to the Singapore National Eye Center 34% of children between the ages of 7 and 9 are wearing glasses. This study found that Singapore has one of the highest prevalences of myopia in the world.
Who develops myopia: The condition is commonly diagnosed in childhood between the ages of 7 and 12, but adults who are exposed to severe visual stress due to too much close-up work can develop the condition later in life.
Causes: Genetic and environmental factors. It is a known fact that Chinese individuals carry the “myopic gene” so they need to be extra cautious when it comes to preventing myopia due to this genetic predisposition. While the genetic factors cannot be altered, at least for now, the environmental stress can be definitely reduced. Parents need to encourage their children to limit their time doing near focused activities and encourage the pursuit of outdoor activities such as sports. In addition, parents need to make sure that their children are not lying down when reading and are holding the book as far as possible.
Symptoms: Common symptoms include headaches, squinting, eyestrain and difficulty seeing distant objects.
What can be done: Myopia can be corrected through eye-glasses, contact lenses or surgery.