Does my child have myopia?
Myopia is commonly known as short-sightedness. A person with myopia is able to see close objects clearly but objects that are further away will appear blurred. Astigmatism refers to a condition where the curvature of the eye is not uniform. This causes light rays to be brought to a distorted focus. Both near and distant objects are blurred. Myopia can occur together with astigmatism.
Myopia is suspected in a child when they cannot see well in the distance. Often younger children may not be aware of the condition. Signs which suggest myopia include children going up close to watch the TV, or squeezing their eyes. A child’s visual system continues to develop until the age of 8. During this period, refractive errors can lead to permanent visual loss called amblyopia or “lazy eye” if this is not corrected with the appropriate glasses. Routine vision screening is important in pre-school children to pick up refractive errors early.
Vision testing is performed by reading a series of letters or numbers of diminishing size on a chart placed 3 or 6 meters away. If the vision score is found to be reduced, refraction (spectacle power check) will be performed to look for any refractive errors. Cycloplegic eyedrops are often used in children to obtain accurate refraction. These eyedrops serve to reduce the eye muscle spasm, which is a natural occurrence in children can causes them to focus more for near than for objects far away. These eye drops also dilate the pupils and allow the doctors to perform a full eye examination. It is important to note that the child’s vision may be blurred for up to a day after dilatation, although the effects are only temporary.
Is myopia common?
In Singapore, half of our children deveop myipia by the age of 12 years. Children are also becoming myopic at a younger age.
Who is likely to develop myopia?
A child is more likely to develop myopia if he/she:
- has one or both parents who have myopia
- is frequently involved in near work such as reading, writing, computer work for long periods of time without a break.
What can I do about my child’s myopia?
Myopia progression can be reduced by reducing the amount of near work a child does. For example, cut down on computer games, handheld games, take periods of rest in between periods of reading or writing.
There are numerous equipment on sale in various shops which serve to help the eye to relax. These equipment work by reducing the muscle spasm that causes a child to focus more for near than for objects far away. Although they do help the eye to relax, no clinical trials have shown that they are able to slow down the increase in myopia as the child grows.
Special eye drops known as Atropine have been studied as a randomized controlled clinical trial in Singapore and have been shown to be effective in some children in preventing their myopia from increasing. This form of treatment is available in NUH. The pros and cons of using this form of treatment will be discussed with you after your child’s eye has been examined.