HPB: Singapore's childhood myopia rate stable

Although Singapore has one of the highest rates of myopia in the world, it has remained stable over the past decade.

According to the Health Promotion Board, it has remained constant over the past 10 years - at 65 per cent among Primary 6 students and 28 per cent for those in Primary 1, reported Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao.

Singapore's myopia rate remains stable as myopia rates are rising globally. In the US and Europe, where myopia rates are traditionally lower, around 50 per cent of young adults now suffer from myopia compared to 25 per cent 50 years ago.

The higher rates have been traced to increased exposure to electronic devices.

But Singapore has bucked the trend due to measures taken in recent years, said experts.

The first is the increased prescription of eye drops with the chemical atropine. These help control childhood myopia even at a 0.01 per cent concentration, said Dr Chua Wei Han, senior consultant ophthalmologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

He said that in a two-year period, the progression of myopia in children who used these eye drops daily was reduced by 80 per cent compared with those using drops without atropine.

Second, in 2001, HPB introduced initiatives under the National Myopia Prevention Programme, which aims to prevent the onset and rapid progression of myopia among children.

Such initiatives include a Spectacle Voucher Fund, where HPB gives financial assistance to underprivileged students who need glasses, or public education efforts where HPB distributes booklets on eye care to students and parents.

But despite the stable rates, 83 per cent of young Singaporean adults are myopic, showing that it is still a problem in Singapore.

Myopia is the condition where individuals have an excessively long eyeball.

Dr Chua said having a long eyeball is irreversible, and people with myopia are at a higher risk of having eye problems such as cataracts, retinal detachments, or even blindness in later years. - THE STRAITS TIMES