Eye clinic tests new myopia treatment using Vitamin B2 and ultraviolet light
Eye clinic conducts myopia treatment trial on 10 patients using Vitamin B2 and ultraviolet light
Singapore has one of the world's highest myopia rates.
Among the 18-year-olds here, about eight in 10 are short-sighted.
This is probably why a group of eye specialists are looking at a new form of vision correction without the use of knives or laser.
Group chairman and medical director of Eagle Eye Centre Julian Theng said: "It uses Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and Ultraviolet A (UVA) to strengthen, stiffen and flatten a distorted cornea."
Dr Theng said the riboflavin is dropped onto the cornea of the patient and the eye is exposed to ultraviolet light for about 20 minutes.
"The light causes the riboflavin to glow, which leads to the formation of bonds between collagen molecules or collagen cross-linking. In a matter of minutes, the procedure is complete," he said.
His centre has performed a trial on more than 10 adults.
"We are encouraged by the results. There is a 100 per cent myopic reduction with an average of 75 degree reduction and a corresponding improvement of three lines or 15 letters in vision without optical aids," Dr Theng said.
"It takes about a week for the effects to be felt," he said, admitting that the procedure is "not as instant as laser treatments".
Dr Theng said there were no cases of infection or secondary complications among his patients.
Patients going through the procedure are put on two to three day's MC as their eyes tear after the procedure.
Costing will be confirmed when the procedure, which takes two to three months, is offered to the public.
One of the patients who went through the procedure was aircraft technician Mohamad Shaiful Mohamad Shah, 33.
He underwent the procedure about three months ago.
"It was in primary school when I realised I had bad eyesight. I could not see the notes written on the board.
"I usually tried to manage it first by changing my seat in class to the front row or waiting till the buses got closer before flagging it," he told The New Paper.
Mr Shaiful said his sight was further aggravated by "too many late-night video games".
"I wore spectacles a few times over the years, but I either lost or broke my spectacles. I don't really have time to wear contact lenses in the morning since it's pretty much a rush getting ready for work," he said.
Then his sister told him about the non-invasive procedure.
Not really fond of knives or lasers, Mr Shaiful decided to give it a try.
"The only side effects? I was especially sensitive to brightness. I was also constantly tearing," he said.
"After two to three days, the tearing went away. Now I am able to see aircraft registration from quite a distance away.
"I can also spot defects much easily. My vision is at its peak condition and it's going to help me a lot with my job."
Nurse Kristin Quimpo, 28, said that working constantly at the computer affected her perfect eyesight.
When it went blurry at the start of this year, she grew worried.
"I went for a test and I was told that the myopia in my right eye was -75 degrees while the left eye was -125 degrees," she said.
Not wanting the inconvenience of spectacles or contact lenses or the downtime from surgery or laser, she opted for this procedure and went for it at the end of July.
"I was teary for weeks and it was explained to me that this was a reaction to the procedure. Now, I am able to see signs and bus numbers 100m to 150m away," she said.
With the 100 per cent success rate so far, Dr Theng said his centre will be looking at using this treatment for age-related eye issues next.
I wore spectacles a few times over the years, but I either lost or broke my spectacles. I don't really have time to wear contact lenses in the morning since it's pretty much a rush getting ready for work.
- Aircraft technician Mohamad Shaiful Mohamad Shah
I was teary for weeks and it was explained to me that this was a reaction to the procedure. Now I am able to see signs and bus numbers 100 to 150m away.
- Nurse Kristin Quimpo
High rate of regression
The rate of the eyes returning to its myopic state after being treated using riboflavin and ultraviolet light is very high, said two professors at the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC).
Assistant Professor Mohamad Rosman, head of the Refractive Surgery Department, attributed this to the riboflavin formulation used.
"It is believed that the current formulation does not penetrate deep enough into the cornea," he said.
Associate Professor Jodhbir S Mehta, who heads research in the Cornea Department, added that there are no published papers in peer-review journals to determine the effectiveness of this procedure and its long-term stability.
Both doctors said laser procedures can be performed for low myopia and have been shown to be effective and stable.
Prof Mehta said that SNEC had been approached by the company "with a view to perform studies on a newer formulation which is believed to penetrate the cornea better and, perhaps may be more effective and lasting".
"But this formulation is currently not available worldwide. Even when this formulation is available, a study will be conducted first to determine safety and effectiveness," he said.
In general, SNEC does not offer procedures that do not have sufficient evidence to show efficacy and long-term efficacy, but the centre does conduct well-designed research on new treatment modalities and "will adopt these new modalities if they are proven to be effective, safe and have good long-term stability," Prof Mehta said.