According to a study by the Singapore Eye Research Institute, childhood myopia is largely attributed to frequent near-work activities done with handheld devices such as iPads.
For people who are shortsighted, blurry vision is the norm the minute they remove their glasses or contact lenses.
And their eyesight could worsen over time, possibly leading to an increased risk of eye diseases.
Myopia is a serious problem in Singapore. The prevalence of childhood myopia among seven-to nine-year-olds here is one of the highest in the world, said Associate Professor Lee Shu Yen, senior consultant and deputy head of the
surgical retina department at the
Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC).
This is why, in about two months, the SNEC is opening its first Myopia Centre, which will offer eye screenings and specialist consultations, and conduct clinical and product trials. It will be located at the former Bedok polyclinic.
The high childhood myopia rate in Singapore is largely attributed to frequent near-work activities done with handheld gaming devices, personal computers, mobile phones and iPads, according to a study by the Singapore Eye Research Institute, Prof Lee said.
It is not because children in Singapore read a lot in dim lighting or sit too close to the TV while watching programmes.
"In fact, a higher exposure to near work is the main contributing factor - besides heredity and genetic factors - to increased risks of myopia... among children in Singapore," said Prof Lee, who is also president of the Singapore Society of Ophthalmology.
"For kids, particularly those whose parents have myopia, limiting the amount of near work with handheld devices and encouraging more outdoor activities can help reduce risks of eye diseases."
A 2015 World Health Organisation report on myopia pointed out that when children spent more than two hours a day outdoors, their risk of myopia was reduced, even when they had two myopic parents and continued to perform near work .
Myopia level tends to rise rapidly for children between the ages of five and 15 years, and usually stabilises by their early 20s.
The earlier myopia develops, the higher the likelihood of one developing high myopia later in life.
"Many people don't realise that high myopia leads to many eye problems later in adulthood including cataract, glaucoma, retinal tears and macular degeneration," said Dr Claudine Pang, an ophthalmologist at Asia Retina Eye Surgery Centre.
"In fact, I am seeing these diseases appearing at an earlier age among my patients."
She added: "We should focus on myopia prevention in our children to prevent the occurrence of such eye diseases in the future."
As for those who are aged 50 and older, annual eye examinations are important, particularly if they are in a high-risk group with a history of diabetes or a family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration, said Prof Lee.
"Even if you do not notice a change in your vision, you should have an eye exam at least once every five years," she said.
"After age 65, you should have your eyes checked every one to two years, as your risk for developing eye disease increases with age."
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