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Childhood Myopia

Singapore has one of the highest rates of childhood myopia in the world. However, Health Promotion Board (HBP) recently reported that the rate has remained stable over the past decade.

Young children who develop myopia early in life tend to have higher eye degrees and face higher risk of eye problems later in life. It is very important to control the progression of childhood myopia as it can progress very quickly. The ways to control myopia progression includes practicing good eye care habits, wearing myopia control glasses or special contact lenses, and using atropine eye drops. Parents should discuss with their eye care professional to decide which method best suits their needs.

Strabismus (squint), amblyopia (lazy eye) and color vision deficiency are also quite common in children. Early detection is important because treatment tends to be more effective when the child is younger. Untreated strabismus and amblyopia may lead to permanent visual impairment.

When should parents bring their child for an eye check?

A child’s first eye exam should occur before entering kindergarten, or by age 5. Myopia is genetic. Children with myopic parents have higher chance of being myopic. Hence they should get their eyes checked at age 3-4. If parent notice any eye problems, they should have their child examined right away so that the problem doesn’t become permanent. Any undetected and uncorrected vision problems in the child could result in developmental delays and learning difficulties.

Parents should bring their kids to see optometrists who use child-friendly tools to make the visit pleasant and engaging. During the consultation, the optometrist will assess the kid’s vision, refractive errors (eye power), eye focusing skill, eye alignment, colour vision and 3D vision. A referral might be made to an eye doctor if any serious eye problems are suspected during the eye examination.

When scheduling an exam for a child, parent should choose a time when the child is usually alert and happy, usually in the morning or after nap time.

Before the eye exam, I always take time to discuss with the child what will happen during the eye exam. I also use child-friendly tool to assess their vision to make them feel more comfortable and happy. Some of our young patients at United Eyecare thought the eye exam was a “play session”!

Myopia Prevention

Spending time outdoors as a child can delay or even prevent myopia as natural light may be essential for normal eye development in kids. Children should spend 2-3 hours outdoors daily (14 hours a week).

Spending too much time outdoors without proper ultraviolet (UV) protection can damage the skin and eyes. Children are more vulnerable to UV damage because their pupils are larger and their lenses in the eyes are clearer. Hence UV protection is extremely important. Children can wear sunglasses with UV protection and/or hat. Also remember to apply sunscreen to protect the delicate skin! If your child is wearing contact lenses, contact lenses with UV blockers can provide additional UV protection as a compliment to sunglasses.

For school-aged kids, sometimes reading, drawing or playing tablet games doesn’t constitute a break. It is important to remind them to take frequent visual breaks. Parents can use the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something at least 20 feet away. Parents should also practise this rule to prevent eye strain and eye fatigue!

Other than spending more time outdoors and taking frequent visual breaks, parents should also also teach their kids to adopt healthy eye care habits like keeping the book at arm’s length while reading, sitting at least 2m away from the television, and eating more fruits and vegetables! Most importantly, I bring them for an eye examination at least once a year!

United Eyecare Kid’s Comprehensive Eye Examination

The eye check consists of

  • Prescription Check
  • Eye Focusing Skill
  • Assessment
  • 3D Vision Assessment
  • Color Vision Assessment
  • Squint/Strabismus Assessment
  • Hand eye Coordination Assessment

Don’t let poor vision affect your child’s life. Call 63976885 (Novena) or 62978298 (Boon Keng) to schedule an appointment for your child today?

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