A study by the Singapore Eye Reseach Institute has found that getting myopia at a young age could lead to worse myopia later in life.
In order to try their best to delay myopia in children, parents should make sure they spend time outdoors, says Professor Saw Seang Mei, who headed the study.
“We know that if you spend more time outdoors as a young child, you can prevent or delay myopia,” said Professor Saw, who heads the myopia research group at the institue.
Doctors hypothesise that this is due to light outdoors usually being much brighter, trigggering the relase of a chemical known as retinal dopamine, which helps prevent myopia from developing.
Over 1 000 children aged between seven and nine were recruited by Professor Saw and her team over several years for the study, and followed up with them till they reached age 11.
Those first diagnosed with myopia when they were young – between three and six years old – ended up with a high myopia of more than 500 degrees on average by the time they were 11.
On the other hand, those who developed the condition at age 10, when the condition only had a year to progress, had myopia of about 150 degrees on average.
“Once you have myopia, you are always myopic,” said Professor Saw, who is also an epidemiology professor with the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore.
“The younger the child who has myopia, the higher the chance of his final degree of myopia being high, because the duration of progression is longer.”
Myopia tends to stabalise when a person reaches adulthood, said Professor Saw, meaning those who have high myopia at age 11 would likely see the condition worsen as they grow up.
With one of the highest rates of myopia worldwide, approximately seven in 10 teenagers in Singapore with the condition.
The children in the study were part of a larger project called the Singapore Cohort Study of the Risk Factors for Myopia, which involved nearly 2 000 children.
Professor Saw and her team also found in an earlier study that having high myopia of more than 500 degrees puts adults at risk of issues such as glaucoma, cataracts and myopic muscalar disease, a degenerative disease that causes loss of vision. This makes prevention at a young age even more important.
Mr Htoo Yan Kyaw, a 29-year-old sales manager, tries to maintain his son’s perfect eyesight by limiting screen time and taking the two and a half year old outside to play as often as possible. “Nowadays, kids like to use iPads and (other gadgets) to watch videos, but of course you have to train them not to do that so often.”
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