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Myopia and Children

Studies show that more and more children are developing myopia or shortsightedness. In Singapore for instance, it is estimated that more than half of the children in the country develop the condition by the time they reach 12 years old.

What is another astounding statistic in Singapore is that at a university level 96% of females are myopic and 93% of males are myopic!

While myopia may be hereditary, research shows that there are things that we can do to prevent the development and worsening of the condition. Here are some things you can do to help your children avoid myopia:

•    Environmental factors can increase your children’s risk of developing shortsightedness. This can include the amount of time spent doing activities like using the computer, reading and playing hand-held games.

•    Make sure that your children have good eye care habits and hygiene at an early age so they can avoid developing eye conditions like myopia.

•    Encourage your children to spend more time outside because studies show that children engaging in outdoor activities can be protected against myopia. It is believed that the condition can be prevented if children are exposed to natural light and their eyes are trained to look at things from afar.

•    Try planning family activities that will allow you to spend time outdoors. For instance, your weekend family outings can be spent in parks or gardens.

•    If you work during the day, remind the person taking care of your children to take them out to playgrounds or parks where they can engage in outdoor activities. However, make sure to tell them not to go out from around 11:00 a.m. to 3 p.m., which are considered the hottest hours of the day.

•    Monitor and if possible, regulate the time your children spend using the computer and playing games in hand-held devices like tablets or mobile phones.

•    Encourage your children to engage in outdoor activities. Expose them to hobbies like going cycling, running or swimming.

•    Admittedly, it will be difficult to control the time your children spend reading books, especially since they are still in school. They may also have a huge need for prolonged computer use to do research for their school work. While these cannot be avoided, make sure to tell your children to take breaks of around 20 seconds for every 20 minutes spent reading or using the computer. They can stretch around a bit or look outside the window to rest their eyes as this can help minimize their risk of developing myopia.

•    Good nutrition also plays an important role in keeping the eyes of your children healthy. Make sure that they have a balanced diet and they have sufficient supply of foods that are rich in beta-carotene like carrots and those rich in vitamin C.

•    Getting sufficient amount of rest is also essential to keep the eyes of your children healthy. Make sure that they get the prescribed amount of sleep which can range from 10 to 12 hours per day, depending on your child’s age.

•    It would also be advisable to have the eyes of your children checked at least once a year, especially if they have already been diagnosed with an eye condition like myopia.

•    Once a child develops myopia he or she will require some form of eye glasses or contact lenses to see and function properly. A contact lens procedure called Orthokeratology seems to be especially effective in slowing down any further progression.

•    Make sure you ask your optometrist about Orthkeratology. It is a great procedure.  If the advice is that is does not work – this is not true. Make an enquiry with us using the ENQUIRY tab at the top right of this page.  We will be delighted to refer you to an accredited practitioner, irrespective of wear you come from.

About the Author

Dr Jim Kokkinakis (Optometrist) graduated in 1983 from the Optometry School University of NSW. He is currently a Senior Lecturer there and regular speaker to both Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in Australia and Internationally. He has a specialist clinical practice in the Sydney CBD with interests in Eye Strain, Computer Vision problems, Treatment of Eye Diseases and complex Contact lens Fittings.

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