Controlling myopia in children

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Many young people in Singapore suffer from myopia. How do we help them?

Many young people suffer from myopia in Singapore. Is your child one of them? Are you disturbed by the quick increase in short-sightedness, which also known as myopia?

How does myopia increase? It has been shown that an increase in near work (reading, writing, computer work) will increase the progress of myopia. This is the reason why children are asked to replace hand held games with outdoor games. But what about home work? The advice would be to rest the eyes, to look far after every half an hour of reading or writing. Even so, many parents will find that the child's myopia will still increase.

Can we stop the increase of myopia?

The following have not been shown to be effective in halting the increase in myopia:

  1. Wearing glasses of a lower power
  2. Wearing bifocal glasses (top part to see far, bottom part to focus for near)

Wearing special hard contact lenses at night (orthokeratology) have been shown to slow the increase of myopia by a small amount in some studies and shown not to work in other studies. These lenses have been known to cause side effects such as infection and a permanent change of cornea shape to an irregular shape.

The only strong clinical evidence of a method to help reduce the increase in myopia is to use Atropine eye drops in the eye.

Atropine eye drops to halt the increase of myopia

This special eye drop has been in use in children in Singapore since 2000 to treat myopia. Back then, the 1% dose was used. Although very effective, some children had problems with glare in the sun and difficulty of seeing near with their glasses on. In the last few years, there has been a shift towards the use of low dose atropine – 0.01% Atropine.

In a five-year trial of 0.01% Atropine which started in 2006, researchers in Singapore found that this dosage of atropine was effective in slowing myopia progression by about 60% over a two year period with very little side effects.

An initial check will reveal if your child is suitable to start the use of Atropine eye drops. The low dose Atropine eye drop is instilled into the eye once per night. There is no pain in using this eye drop and many children get accustomed to it. Side effects are very minimal to nil. The child then has an eye check-up once in a few months to monitor progress.

Although Atropine has been shown to help retard the progression of myopia, it is very important to remind children that they need to continue to have good eye care habits. These include reading in good light, to reduce the amount of near work, to have more outdoor play and not to read or write at too close up a distance.