As parents, you want your child to succeed and excel in everything that he or she does in life, but sometimes being ranked at the top of the list may not always be a good thing.
According to the Singapore National Eye Centre, the prevalence of childhood myopia among seven-to nine-year-olds in Singapore is one of the highest in the world.
If you are worried about your child’s eyesight, there are many ways you can help manage childhood myopia and teach your kid to adopt good eye care habits.
What is Myopia?
Myopia, or short-sightedness (also known as near-sightedness) is a chronic, progressive disease10 which causes you to have difficulty seeing distant objects (or they appear blurred).
In Singapore, 65 percent of children are myopic¹ by Primary 6, and 83 percent of young adults are myopic. It is projected that 80 to 90 percent of Singaporean adults will become myopic, of which 15 to 25 percent of them will have high myopia by 2050².
Causes of Myopia
Myopia occurs when the eyeball is too long – so when light enters the eyes, it is not focused correctly, which causes blurred vision.
Studies³ have shown that childhood myopia is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Children are more likely to have myopia if their parents are myopic.
The prevalence of myopia in young children appears to be on the rise in Asia which could be due to the amount of nearwork activity⁴ like reading, the use of digital devices, and the lack of outdoor time.
Studies⁵ also shows that the earlier a child gets myopia, the faster it will progress and continue to worsen. Having high myopia can lead to increased risks of sight-threatening diseases in adulthood such as myopic macular degeneration and retinal detachment.
Signs and Symptoms of Myopia in Children
Childhood myopia may not be visible to parents, so here are some of the signs to watch out for:
- Trouble seeing the whiteboard at school or the number of the oncoming bus
- Squinting while doing homework, reading or watching TV
- Rubbing of eyes
- Frequent headaches
- Frequent blinking
How to adopt better eye care habits?
Although genetics can be partly the reason for the high development of myopia in Singapore, environmental factors also contribute to the condition.
You can help your kids to combat the development and progression of childhood myopia and reduce eye fatigue by teaching them good eye care habits, which include:
● More outdoor play
Some studies⁷ have shown that children who spend more time outdoors (playing, participating in sports activities, etc) have a lowered risk of childhood myopia.
It is recommended that you encourage your kids to spend time outdoors to get plenty of sunshine, not only for their eye health, but also for their physical health and overall development⁷. Do ensure that your little one is wearing adequate sun protection when outdoors.
● Sufficient sleep
Preschool children should get between 11 to 12 hours of sleep, whereas school-going children require between 10 to 11 hours of sleep and adolescents should be sleeping for about nine hours.
Getting enough sleep every night is vital for eye health. A recent study11 has shown that sleeping late is a risk factor for higher prevalence, higher incidence, and greater progression of myopia in urban primary school children.
● Less screen-time
Nowadays, a lot of children are exposed to excessive screen time either by watching a lot of television, using handheld mobile devices, or playing games on a computer or laptop.
Studies⁸,⁹ have shown the association between myopia and near work activities like smartphone usage.
Try to limit your child’s usage of such devices and ensure that he is not seated too close to the screen, nor is there a glare from the reflection of other light sources.
● Eye breaks
Encourage your child to follow the 20-20-20 rule. Basically, every 20 minutes spent using a screen, your child should try to look away at something that is 20 feet away for a total of 20 seconds.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the 20-20-20 rule as a way to reduce eye strain. Results of a 2013 study involving 795 university students suggested that those who periodically refocused on distant objects while using the computer had fewer symptoms of computer vision syndrome, which include eye strain, watering or dry eyes, and blurred vision.
● Proper lighting
Although inadequate lighting does not directly cause childhood myopia, if your kid is reading, studying or lighting under dim or poor lighting, it might make it difficult for the eyes to focus, which can cause eye fatigue and eye strain.
Ensure that the area around the television or computer is well illuminated and encourage your little one to use adequate lighting when doing any near work, especially when reading or writing.
● Regular eye-checks
To ensure that your child continues to have good vision to play and learn, an annual eye examination is important to detect any changes in vision and intervene as soon as possible.
There are currently three types of recommended solutions for parents seeking to manage their child’s myopia.
- Orthokeratology (“Ortho-K”) lenses
Children can wear these lenses while they sleep and won’t need to wear glasses or contact lenses during the day. This is because, when worn overnight, Ortho-K lenses temporarily reshape the cornea, allowing kids to see clearly the next day. This is a great option for school children as they can see clearly for school, sports, swimming, and other activities without the inconvenience of glasses.
- Myopia control soft contact lenses*
Children also have another option to wear myopia control soft contact lenses to correct their vision and control myopia progression at the same time. These lenses are designed specifically to fit the children’s eyes to provide comfort and efficacy so that they may continue to have an active lifestyle.
- Myopia control spectacle lenses
These spectacles look like normal glasses but work to control myopia progression.
This article is presented by ACUVUE® Abiliti™ Overnight Therapeutic Lenses. If you are concerned about your child’s vision, head over to https://www.seeyourabiliti.com/sg/ to do a risk assessment now.
You can also book an eye health check-up with an ACUVUE Abiliti™authorised eye care practitioner, and find out more about how ACUVUE® Abiliti™ Overnight Therapeutic Lenses control the progression of myopia in children.
¹ Karuppiah, V., Wong, L., Tay, V., Ge, X., & Kang, L. L. (2021). School-based programme to address childhood myopia in Singapore. Singapore Medical Journal, 62(2), 63–68. https://doi.org/10.11622/SMEDJ.2019144
² Holden, B. A., Fricke, T. R., Wilson, D. A., Jong, M., Naidoo, K. S., Sankaridurg, P., Wong, T. Y., Naduvilath, T. J., & Resnikoff, S. (2016). Global Prevalence of Myopia and High Myopia and Temporal Trends from 2000 through 2050. Ophthalmology, 123(5), 1036–1042. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ophtha.2016.01.006
³ Morgan, I. G., Wu, P., Ostrin, L. A., Tideman, J. W. L., & Yam, J. C. (2021). IMI Risk Factors for Myopia. Imi, 12–15.
⁴ Wang, J., Li, Y., Musch, D. C., Wei, N., Qi, X., Ding, G., Li, X., Li, J., Song, L., Zhang, Y., Ning, Y., Zeng, X., Hua, N., Li, S., & Qian, X. (2021). Progression of Myopia in School-Aged Children after COVID-19 Home Confinement. JAMA Ophthalmology, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2020.6239
⁵ Chua, S. Y. L., Sabanayagam, C., Cheung, Y.-B., Chia, A., Valenzuela, R. K., Tan, D., Wong, T.-Y., Cheng, C.-Y., & Saw, S.-M. (2016). Age of onset of myopia predicts risk of high myopia in later childhood in myopic Singapore children. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 36(4), 388–394. https://doi.org/10.1111/opo.12305
⁶ Haarman, A. E. G., Enthoven, C. A., Willem Tideman, J. L., Tedja, M. S., Verhoeven, V. J. M., & Klaver, C. C. W. (2020). The complications of myopia: A review and meta-analysis. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, 61(4), 1–3. https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.61.4.49
⁷ Cao, K., Wan, Y., Yusufu, M., & Wang, N. (2020). Significance of Outdoor Time for Myopia Prevention: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Based on Randomized Controlled Trials. Ophthalmic Research, 63(2), 97–105. https://doi.org/10.1159/000501937
⁸ Myopic students used almost double the amount of smartphone data at 1,130.71 ± 1,748.14 MB per day compared to non-myopes at 613.63 ± 902.15 MB. (McCrann, S., Loughman, J., Butler, J.S., Paudel, N. and Flitcroft, D.I. (2022), Smartphone use as a possible risk factor for myopia. Clin Exp Optom. https://doi.org/10.1111/cxo.13092)
⁹ Low levels of outdoor activity and near work are well-established risk factors for myopia (Grzybowski, A., Kanclerz, P., Tsubota, K. et al. A review on the epidemiology of myopia in school children worldwide. BMC Ophthalmol 20, 27 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12886-019-1220-0
10 Flitcroft DI et al. IMI–Defining and classifying myopia: a proposed set of standards for clinical and epidemiologic studies. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science. 2019;60:M20-30
11 Liu, X.N., Naduvilath, T.J., Wang, J. et al. Sleeping late is a risk factor for myopia development amongst school-aged children in China. Sci Rep 10, 17194 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-74348-7
* Johnson & Johnson Vision does not currently have soft multifocal contact lenses products approved for myopia control in Singapore.