LIKE in many other Asia regions, myopia or nearsightedness is becoming increasingly prevalent among children in Malaysia at an alarming rate. Hence, it is crucial for parents and caregivers to be vigilant.
Consultant optometrist Mary Chong (pix, above at right) says signs and symptoms like frequent eye-rubbing, squinting to see objects at distance, complaints of headaches or eye strain, abnormal head posture, or sitting too close to the mobile phone or computer screen can indicate vision problems in their children.
She said parents should also monitor for changes in academic performance or coordination issues, as these can be one of the key indicators of vision problems.
Mary, the founder and consultant optometrist of Eye & Glasses Optometrist in Jelutong, Penang, has over 20 years of service in the field of eyecare. She is aIso a committee member of the Association of Malaysian Optometrists.
She said genetics and lifestyle factors can contribute to myopia. If there is a family history of myopia, a child is at a higher risk. However, lifestyle choices play a significant role as well – such as excessive screen time, limited outdoor activities and poor reading habits.
“They can increase the risk of myopia, and to reduce these risks, parents should control children’s screen time, encourage more outdoor activities, and ensure proper lighting and ergonomic posture during reading or studying.
“The digital era has caused a drastic increase in screen time that leads to digital eye strain, causing an early onset of myopia. It is crucial for children to take regular breaks while using digital devices. I highly recommend trying the simple 20-20-20 rule, where every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away.”
Mary reminds parents about regular eye check-ups to detect issues like myopia or amblyopia (also known as “lazy eye” syndrome) in their children at an early stage, and how that can positively affect their development and learning.
She recommends the use of specialised myopia control lenses like Essilor’s “Stellest®” to effectively slow down myopia progression.
Stellest® is the brand of lenses by prescription glasses market leader Essilor, where the lenses are the latter’s innovation to slow down myopia progression in children – by 67% on average, compared to single vision lenses, when worn 12 hours a day.
Being proactive in seeking professional eyecare practitioners, or optometrists, at the first signs of a problem is crucial as improved vision not only enhances a child’s learning experience but also positively impacts their overall development, confidence and quality of life.
Parents can keep the following easy reference to prevent or treat vision problems in their children:
1. Encourage more outdoor activities and limit screen time, especially for younger children.
2. Implement 20-20-20 rule for screen usage, and ensure proper lighting and ergonomic posture while reading and studying.
3. Attend regular eye examinations by an optometrist, at least once a year.
4. Provide a balanced diet.
5. Consult an optometrist immediately, if there is any sign of vision problem.