When Sharon (not her real name) went for her first eye check-up at age 7, she was told she had -0.75 dioptres, which is commonly understood as 75 degrees of myopia. Her mother was not as concerned and thought this level of myopia is “low”. She herself grew up with myopia and had gotten used to it.
Sharon was given a pair of standard single vision lenses to correct her vision. But a year later, distant objects began to appear blurry to Sharon again. Sharon went for another eye check and to her mother’s surprise, Sharon’s prescription increased by 100 degrees in just a year.
On hindsight, Sharon’s mother admits regrettably that she could have been more proactive in helping her daughter control her myopia before it progressed further.
In Singapore, it is not difficult to find others with similar experiences as Sharon and her mother. Singapore being the myopia capital of the world with 65% of Singaporean children becoming myopic by Primary 6, most parents recognize that there is a high chance that their child may become myopic. However, not all parents have the correct information about myopia and how it can rapidly progress in children. However, not all parents have the right information about myopia, how it can rapidly progress and what are the solutions available.
Let’s look at some of the common misconceptions around myopia so that parents can be better informed on how to protect their child’s eyesight and reduce the risk of them developing high myopia.
Misconception #1: It is okay to wait for a few years to observe if my child’s myopia worsens before opting for myopia control solutions.
Considering Sharon’s case, her mother would likely agree that this is a misconception. Sharon’s myopia worsened very quickly, and a lot faster than what Sharon’s mother expected it to be. On hindsight, Sharon would have benefited from an eye check at an earlier age, and her myopia could have been better managed if her mother had opted to do something when her myopia was only 75 degrees.
Debunked: Scientific studies show that the younger a child becomes myopic, the faster his or her myopia will progress. According to this study, a child that develops myopia at age 7 with a degree of 100, can progress to high myopia, i.e. 600 degrees by the age of 16. There is also no safe level of myopia, according to a paper published in 2019, which noted that each additional dioptre (colloquially known as “degree”) increases the risk of developing serious vision-threatening complications later in life, including glaucoma, retinal detachment and myopic maculopathy. Therefore, early intervention is key to slow down the progression of myopia.
Misconception #2: When my child has myopia, giving him/her the usual correction spectacles is good enough.
In the past, we only relied on standard spectacles or contact lenses. These are known as single-vision solutions. And for children whose myopia is progressing, parents would watch helplessly as their kids’ spectacle lenses become “thicker” with each new visit to the optometrist!
Debunked: Traditional single-vision solutions can only correct one’s vision, they do not control myopia progression. It is extremely important to slow down the progression of myopia in children. With technological advancement, there are now spectacles that help to CONTROL myopia progression, not just CORRECT it. Unlike standard single vision lenses, these new lenses send an additional signal to the eyes to slow down the abnormal eye elongation due to myopia and hence prevent its worsening.
Misconception #3: I’m not too worried if my child’s myopia gets worse because we can consider Lasik when he or she grows up.
Lasik has always been an attractive alternative to wearing spectacles or contact lenses for many short-sighted people. Regaining perfect eyesight after Lasik surgery is almost akin to regaining freedom.
Debunked: However, Lasik or refractive surgery does not cure myopia. It may let you enjoy clear vision without spectacles or contact lenses, but it doesn’t reverse the already elongated myopic eyeball. Therefore, it does not reduce the risk of vision complications later in life.
Why it’s important to take care of your child’s eyesight, now more than ever
Vision is the key to learning because 80% of all learning occurs through vision. Good vision allows children to learn well, feel comfortable with others, and thrive at school.
Our children’s modern lifestyle tends to be more demanding on their eyesight. Daily routines and increased near vision work (like reading, doing schoolwork and using digital screens instead of going out to play) are contributing factors to developing myopia.
This is even more magnified during this pandemic, with the increased home-based learning. Attending classes and doing homework now involve using laptops and/or tablets. Come school holidays, parents may also put their kids in online enrichment classes instead of going for overseas vacations. Even playtime involves more near vision work as kids spend hours indoors on mobile game apps and socialising in the metaverse, rather than frolicking outdoors, to minimise risk of exposure to the virus.
Some children, especially the younger ones, may not recognise whether they’re having eyesight problems, so it’s important for parents to look out for tell-tale signs. If your child is squinting more frequently at distant objects or moving closer to reading materials or screens, that could be a cause for concern!
Practical tips to control your child’s myopia
Have you been postponing activities that you may deem as “non-essential” during this COVID-19 period? For timely detection and close monitoring if myopia is progressing, you should have your child’s vision checked once every six months. You can also assess your child’s risk of developing high myopia via this simple online myopia risk assessment.
Currently available in the market are Essilor® Stellest™ Lenses which are clinically proven to slow down myopia progression by 67% on average compared to single vision lenses, when worn at least 12 hours a day. It uses the breakthrough “H.A.L.T.** technology, which consists of a cutting-edge constellation of 1021 invisible* lenslets. This constellation creates a volume of signal into the eye that acts as a shield against eye elongation to slow down myopia progression.
Essilor® Stellest™ Lenses are comfortable and easy to adapt for children, with no compromises:
- 90% of children are fully adapted within three days
- 100% of children are fully adapted within a week
- 94% of children feel comfortable with Essilor® Stellest™ lenses
Myopia myths debunked. Read more here.
Learn more about Essilor® Stellest™ Lenses here or find an Essilor Expert near you today here.