As parents, we strive to care for our children’s overall well-being and physical health. However, one common eye condition that requires our attention is myopia, also known as nearsightedness. Unfortunately, myopia is rising among children, and it’s essential to take proactive measures to control and prevent its progression. By understanding the strategies available, we can empower ourselves and our children to maintain a healthy vision for a brighter future.
In our new blog on 6 Techniques for Controlling and Slowing Progression Myopia in Children, we will explore practical ways to control myopia and prevent it from worsening in children. These simple approaches aim to safeguard your child’s eyesight and ensure optimal visual health.
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Myopia Statistics in Singapore
Singapore is known as the “Myopia Capital of the World” due to its alarmingly high incidence of myopia in children. Research has revealed that approximately 65 percent of children in Singapore develop myopia by the time they reach Primary 6. Disturbingly, experts predict that by 2050, a staggering 80 to 90 percent of Singaporean adults over the age of 18 will be affected by myopia.
The prevalence of childhood myopia is equally concerning, affecting approximately one in four 7-year-olds, a third of children aged 9, and a whopping half of 12-year-olds in the country. These statistics highlight the urgent need to address myopia in children and take proactive steps to control its progression.
Read: 7 Important Facts Parents Need to Know About Childhood Myopia
Importance of Controlling and Preventing Myopia from Worsening
Controlling and preventing myopia from worsening is essential for several reasons. Firstly, myopia can significantly impact a child’s quality of life. As nearsightedness progresses, it can lead to blurred vision, difficulty seeing objects at a distance, and potential eye strain. This can hinder a child’s academic performance, participation in sports, and other outdoor activities, and overall enjoyment of daily life.
Further, myopia carries long-term implications for eye health. Individuals with high levels of myopia are at a higher risk of developing sight-threatening conditions such as early onset of cataract, retinal detachment, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Taking measures to control myopia in childhood can reduce the risk of these complications later in life.
Controlling myopia also has economic implications, too. The financial burden of managing myopia, including frequent changes in corrective or contact lenses, can be substantial for families. However, implementing preventive strategies can reduce the need for more aggressive interventions and minimise the associated costs.
How to Prevent Myopia from Worsening
1. Promote outdoor activities and limit screen time
In recent years, research has provided compelling evidence linking increased outdoor time to a reduced risk of myopia in children. This finding has significant implications for parents and educators as they strive to protect children’s vision and curb the alarming rise of myopia worldwide.
Several studies have consistently shown a strong association between spending more time outdoors and a lower incidence of myopia. For example, one landmark study conducted in Asia, where myopia rates are exceptionally high, revealed that children who spent more time outdoors had a significantly reduced risk of developing myopia compared to those with limited outdoor exposure.
The mechanisms underlying outdoor time’s protective effect on myopia are still being investigated. One hypothesis suggests that the intensity and quality of light outdoors, especially natural sunlight, play a crucial role. Sunlight exposure stimulates the release of dopamine in the retina, a neurotransmitter that inhibits excessive eye growth and helps maintain proper eye shape. Outdoor activities also tend to involve more distance vision and visual stimuli that require focusing on objects at varying distances, which may contribute to the protective effect.
While the ideal duration of outdoor time for myopia prevention is not yet determined, several studies have suggested that spending at least two to three hours per day outdoors can significantly reduce the risk of myopia development. Encouraging children to engage in outdoor activities such as sports, playing in parks, or simply spending time in natural environments can make a meaningful difference.
2. Implement the 20-20-20 rule
The 20-20-20 rule is a simple yet effective technique for preventing eye strain, particularly in children who may spend prolonged periods engaged in near work such as reading or using digital devices. This rule encourages regular breaks and helps alleviate the strain on the eyes, potentially reducing the risk of myopia progression.
The concept of the 20-20-20 rule is simple — for every 20 minutes of near work, take a 20-second break and focus on an object 20 feet away. Doing so allows the eyes to rest and readjust their focus, reducing the strain caused by near-continuous work.
Engaging in near-work activities for extended periods places significant stress on the eye’s focusing system. When we focus on nearby objects, the eye’s ciliary muscles contract, causing the lens to thicken for near vision. Over time, this prolonged contraction of the ciliary muscles can contribute to eye fatigue and potentially impact the development and progression of myopia.
3. Encourage proper distance and lighting
Maintaining appropriate reading and screen distances is of utmost importance for eye health, particularly in the context of myopia prevention. When we hold reading materials or electronic devices too close to our eyes, the focusing system is strained, contributing to eye fatigue and potentially worsening myopia.
By maintaining an optimal reading distance, typically around 35 to 40 centimetres (cm) from the eyes, we allow the eyes to focus more comfortably, reducing the strain on the eye muscles. Similarly, when using screens such as computers, tablets, or smartphones, it is recommended to maintain a distance of about 50 to 71 cm.
Meanwhile, creating a well-lit environment for reading and studying is vital for maintaining healthy vision and preventing eye strain. Ample and appropriate lighting ensures the eyes can focus comfortably on the reading material or screen without excessive strain. Natural light is preferred, so positioning the study area near a window or utilising daylight bulbs can help mimic natural lighting conditions. Providing a well-lit environment promotes optimal visual conditions, reduces eye fatigue, and supports children in their learning and reading work.
4. Visit the doctor for regular eye exams
Regular eye exams allow optometrists or ophthalmologists to assess the eyes’ overall health, detect any early signs of myopia, and monitor its progression. Early detection enables timely intervention, which can help prevent myopia from worsening. Therefore, it is recommended that children undergo comprehensive eye exams at least once a year.
The doctor will prescribe corrective eyewear, such as glasses or contact lenses, to provide clear vision for children with myopia. By correcting refractive errors, these visual aids help reduce eye strain, improve focus, and enhance visual comfort. They also help prevent the development of habits like squinting or straining that can exacerbate myopia progression.
5. Consider myopia control techniques
Apart from outdoor activities, proper reading and screen distances, regular eye exams, and the use of corrective eyewear, there are other myopia control techniques such as use of atropine eye drops.
Pharmaceutical interventions, such as low-dose atropine eye drops, have been studied for their potential to control myopia progression. Atropine eye drops work by relaxing the eye’s focusing system, slowing down eye growth and myopia progression.
Read: Is There a Cure for Childhood Myopia?
6. Promote healthy lifestyle habits
Research has indicated a strong correlation between healthy lifestyle choices and a reduced risk of myopia development and progression in children. Encouraging a balanced diet that includes essential nutrients for eye health, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and lutein, can significantly support optimal visual health and potentially mitigate myopia.
Regular physical activity has also been linked to a lower risk of myopia. Engaging in outdoor activities, sports, and exercises not only promotes overall physical well-being but also provides exposure to natural light and a break from near work, which can contribute to reducing the onset and progression of myopia.
Sufficient sleep is another vital factor in maintaining healthy eyes and potentially preventing myopia. Studies have shown that inadequate sleep or disrupted sleep patterns may increase the risk of developing myopia. Ensuring that children get an appropriate amount of quality sleep supports their overall health and visual well-being.
Wrapping Up Myopia Prevention for Children
By promoting a holistic approach that incorporates a balanced diet, regular physical activity, and sufficient sleep, parents and educators can contribute to reducing the risk of myopia in children. Hence, it is essential to emphasise the significance of these lifestyle choices alongside other preventive measures, such as limiting screen time and maintaining appropriate reading distances, for comprehensive myopia control and long-term eye health.
Parents must prioritise their child’s eye health by actively implementing these strategies and promoting healthy habits. By doing so, we can take proactive steps to control myopia and prevent its progression, ultimately safeguarding our children’s vision for a brighter future.
Please schedule a consultation with us today to learn more about childhood myopia. Our medical director, Dr Jimmy Lim at JL Eye Specialists, will help tailor your treatment plan.