Kids are getting myopia younger. More than 1 in 10 Singaporean children aged under 6 years old (as young as 6 months) have myopia.
Unfortunately, we don’t have good news for you here – did you know that Singapore has one of the highest rates of myopia in the world? According to Dr Lam Pin Min, the Senior Minister of State for health, 65% of Singaporean children are diagnosed with myopia by the time they are in Primary 6, and this figure rises to 83% by the time they become young adults. These numbers are staggering and it is projected to get even worse – by 2050, only thirty years from now, estimations indicate that 80 to 90% of all Singaporean adults (over the age of 18) will suffer from myopia. Of these, almost a quarter will suffer from high myopia.
Most of us know myopia as near-sightedness, an eye condition where objects nearby are clear but those in the distance appear blurry. High myopia is essentially a more severe case of myopia, where near-sightedness is much worse than average. For those familiar with the Singaporean convention of measuring eyesight, high myopia refers to anyone who has a refractive error of worse than 600 degrees (or -6.00 dioptres). High myopia is associated with a whole host of other blinding eye conditions, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.
A study done on school children in Singapore found that the age at which a child first gets myopia, which also corresponds to the duration of myopia progression was the most important predictor of that child getting high myopia later in his/her life. The study found that developing myopia early in life triples the chances of developing high myopia, which may lead to complete blindness.
Children who develop myopia early, at around 7 or 8 years of age, have more than a 50% risk of developing high myopia. This is because myopia usually increases rapidly between the ages of 5 and 15. The earlier myopia develops in a child, the more time is available for myopia to progress rapidly, until it is severe enough to be categorised as high myopia by the time it stabilises at around 20 years old.
Taking care of your child’s eyes from young is the best gift you can give them. As always, prevention is better than cure, so don’t wait till it is too late to take action. Teaching children about healthy eye care behaviour since young, such as spending adequate time on outdoor activities, monitoring the amount of near work (including time spent using mobile devices) and taking regular eye breaks in between near work activities, will go a long way in ensuring your child’s eyes are kept healthy.
Even if your child develops myopia, early detection and management of the condition may prevent it from becoming worse. Bring your child for an eye check today to make sure that any eye conditions or diseases are diagnosed early so that they can be treated in the best possible manner.
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