SNEC Explains: Childhood myopia

Does your child strain to view things?

He or she could have childhood myopia, a problem that can be corrected readily and stabilised with spectacles.

What is childhood myopia?

Childhood myopia is a form of short-sightedness (myopia) that begins and progresses during childhood.

Myopic children may complain of problems seeing distant objects such as oncoming bus-numbers, the white-board in class or television. Sometimes they may tilt or turn their head, or narrow their eyes to see better.

The condition is easily corrected with spectacles. However, as myopia often increases by 1.00D every year till the children reach their teenage years, their vision needs to be checked at least once every year, as their spectacles may need to be changed.

What causes childhood myopia?

Evidence indicates that progressive childhood myopia is due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Children whose parents are myopic are also more likely to be myopic, and children who spend more time indoors (reading, watching television and playing computer games) appear to be more at risk than those who spend more time outdoors.

How can I help treat or prevent childhood myopia?

There is no cure for myopia and one of the best ways to prevent myopia or slow its progression in your child is to ensure that he or she practices good eye care habits. This includes ensuring the near work is held further away, and that your child takes frequent breaks to rest their eyes.

Outdoor activity should also be encouraged.

Alternatively, in cases where myopia is progressing rapidly, interventional measures such as atropine eye-drops can be considered.

Good eyecare habits

  • Hold any reading material 30 cm away from the face/eyes, and try to read while sitting upright rather than lying down
  • When watching television, the television must be approximately 2-metres away
  • Computer screens should be approximately 50 cm away from the eyes and adjusted to minimise glare
  • Lighting should be sufficient to illuminate the room when reading, using the computer or watching television, but not cause any glare
  • Encourage your child to take a break to rest the eyes every 30 to 40 minutes of reading or watching television; look out the window at far away objects and do eye exercises to relax the eyes
  • Encourage children to spend more time outdoors.

This article was contributed by Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC). For more information, visit SNEC's website at www.snec.com.sg.

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