Myopia, also called short-sightedness, is very common in urban Asian cities like Singapore. It is caused by a mismatch between the eye’s focusing power and the length of the eyeball, resulting in images being formed before light rays reach the retina (which is like the film or negative in a traditional camera) at the back of the eye. Usually, myopic eyes are longer than average. Sufferers are unable to see far clearly, but can see near well.
Simple corrective measures such as wearing spectacles are acceptable for some people, but these spectacles cause images to appear smaller than in real life especially for high power. For high power, spectacles are also thick and cumbersome. Contact lenses, when handled in a hygienic and responsible manner, can be a good solution particularly for sports and certain vocations. Those who are uncomfortable with contact lenses can certainly consider laser vision correction with LASIK and its alternatives, which are highly successful eye surgeries nowadays.
However, it needs to be emphasized that short-sightedness does not become “cured” just by doing LASIK and the likes. The long eyeballs in these cases remain the same size even after the eye power has been zeroed. They are still more prone to having eye diseases like retina tears or detachments, glaucoma and cataract. Therefore regular eye checks are highly recommended for those with the condition, even after laser treatment had been successfully performed.
Another aspect of the management of the condition is the control of childhood myopia. Early attention and intervention can stabilize the increase in eye power, resulting in a less myopic eye than left unattended. Overall, both nature and nurture contribute to the tendency for children in Singapore to become short-sighted. It is not possible to stop children from reading and doing close-up work, but it is highly recommended they be reminded to rest their eyes frequently (every 15-20 minutes) when doing so. Good visual habits such as avoiding reading in darkness, a proper and balanced diet, plenty of time spent on outdoor activities are all encouraged. Treatment to retard its progression can be sought, such as by using a dilute form of atropine eyedrops . Such treatment regime needs supervision from an eye doctor and is generally effective.
by Dr Daphne Han – Senior Consultant Ophthalmology