Childhood myopia is on the rise, cementing the fact that Singapore is the ‘Myopia Capital of the World’. It’s a worrying concern for parents – and unfortunately, my 4-year-old has joined the spectacles clan.
How we discovered about our child’s eye issues
His short-sightedness and lazy eyes conditions came as a surprise.
How it happened: My son went for his 4-year-old childhood developmental screening at the polyclinic where eye tests were conducted. At that point, the nurse and I realised that he couldn’t read the chart although it was just a short distance away. That left me anxious and worried!
Hence, the polyclinic referred us to the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), where various vision tests were done. The appointment took more than 2 hours, including waiting and we regretted not having breakfast prior. We were so hungry, and with Gideon getting impatient, he kept fidgeting during the doctor’s consultation.
My tips: remember to eat first or bring along some snacks for the wait.
The dreadful eyesight diagnosis that turned into mum’s guilt
After the assessment, my son was diagnosed with lazy eyes (amblyopia) and myopia (short sightedness or near-sightedness). Lazy eyes and myopia are not the same and both vision disorders can affect the child in different ways.
Lazy eyes are common in young kids and this abnormal visual development occurs during their early years. The brain is unable to fully process the sight from one eye, or both eyes, in my son’s case! I’m glad this condition was picked up because he didn’t seem to show common lazy eyes symptoms such as squinting, tilting his head or have difficulties in reading, maths or even fine motor skills. How unsuspecting!
Nonetheless, the most dreadful news of having to wear spectacles had become an eye-opening fact! It was hard for me to accept that he must wear spectacles at just 4! Mum’s guilt crept up on me – did I give him too much screen time? Was I too worried about Covid, so we don’t head outdoors much? Did he inherit these eyesight issues from me? I wore glasses when I was 6, but he’s only 4!
Unable to accept the fact that he had to be fitted with glasses, I asked the doctor if there were other solutions. The doctor suggested using lubricant eye drops as he has dry eyes and was often blinking. To fix lazy eyes, an eye patch is usually worn. The earlier patching therapy is done, the higher chance to reverse this visual impairment.
However, controlling his myopia will be tricky. His lazy eyes developed because he couldn’t see clearly. If he is able to see clearly, his lazy eyes could be treated. Thus, we have to skip the eye patch and get him prescription glasses. Myopia will never go away, but wearing spectacles coupled with good eye care habits can help.
To get a second opinion, I brought him to see an Eye Specialist (which set me back by $600), to confirm the best way to manage childhood myopia and lazy eyes. In Singapore, kids under 7 need to see an eye doctor or an optometrist for a comprehensive eye examination and obtain a prescription before making their glasses at the optical store.
What we are doing to manage his myopia and lazy eyes
The Eye Specialist recommended the Essilor Stellest lenses for Gideon. The myopia control lenses would help to stabilise and slow down the increase in degree. Such solutions aren’t cheap (around $600) but to me, it was worth a try since they might help him.
There are other non-invasive myopia control treatment options such as Zeiss MyoVision lenses and Hoya MiYOSMART spectacle lenses were developed specifically for kids.
Alternatively, Atropine eye drops are medically prescribed to delay the rapid increase in myopia progression. They can be used concurrently with spectacles (or contact lenses for older kids), so do check with your child’s eye doctor on the recommended plan.
When we went back for a follow-up check 6 months later, his degree maintained, and his lazy eyes issue seemed to have improved slightly!
Daily healthy habits and tips to protect children’s eyes
It takes effort to help our kids inculcate healthy eye habits. How can parents help with myopia management?
- Schedule a 6-monthly or yearly eye assessment with the Eye Doctor or optometrist (for children below 7 years old).
- Head outdoors daily: Studies have shown that children who spend 1 hour playing outdoors everyday can reduce their risk of developing myopia by more than 14%.
- Sit upright and read in a brightly lit room.
- Keep 2/3 of an arm’s length away when doing near work such as reading, drawing or watching from a device.
- Take frequent eye breaks when doing near work. Consider the 20-20-20 rule. 20 minutes of near work, 20 seconds of looking at an object 20 feet away from the child.
- Limit screen time to avoid overstraining child’s eye muscles, as they tend to stare and blink less when focusing.
- Use natural saline eye drops to lubricate eyes when eyes are itchy, dry or when you notice your child blinking often.
65% of our children are myopic by Primary 6. By practising these eye care tips early, parents can help to delay the onset of myopia or improve it.
Did you know that the CDA funds can be used at some optical stores in Singapore? Managing eyesight issues is a long-term affair and can snowball to a substantial expense over the years. Wish to plan your finances and grow your savings for such family expenses? I’m just a phone call or text away to share my knowledge and experience as a mother and financial advisor.