6 facts about short-sightedness

Dr Daphne Han, medical director and consultant ophthalmologist at SMG Vision Center, talks about myopia in 5—12-year-olds.


Myopia (or short-sightedness) is known to be a complex problem, in which both “nature and nurture” play a part, says Dr Daphne Han, the eye expert we consulted. She calls it “in effect a disorder of eye-growth control”.

Nature: It is hereditary — if the parents have myopia, children are more likely to develop it, too.

Nurture: Tiring out your eyes (by holding your books too close for too long) constantly can likely make short-sightedness worse. Also, eating specific foods “for the eyes” isn’t necessary unless the doctor or nutrionist recommends it for your child’s growth — just a healthy, balanced, normal diet will do.

Studies have found that being outdoors is “protective against myopia” — Dr Han says the “duration, brightness and variability of outdoor light may be key” in how your short-sightedness develops. So let your children go outdoors as much as is practical, and have ample bright light indoors for doing “near work” (reading or playing with the computer or gadgets).

Dr Han’s Eyecare Tips

1. Limit unnecessary “near work” such as playing computer games or watching shows on handphones or tablets. Ensure that an at least 30cm is kept between the printed page or the phone/tablet screen, and the eyes.

2. Take frequent breaks to prevent eye fatigue (spasms of the eye muscles that control our focusing). Dr Han compares continuous reading/staring at the computer to carrying “a dumbbell for extended duration” — of course you end up with tired eyes, blurring of vision, eye pain and even headache. She suggests allowing the eyes to focus at a longer distance, or just simply closing them to let them rest for a few minutes every so often (every 15 minutes or so). There is, however, no conclusive study to prove that this helps in reducing myopia or in delaying the onset of myopia in children. 

She adds: “Some eye exercises and accupoint massages have been in practice in various places such as China, America and Europe. Although these exercises had sometimes been shown to improve focus and reduce fatigue of the eyes, none of them had been conclusively proven to reduce or delay the onset of myopia.”

3. Don’t read while lying down as the reading distance is usually shorter; or while moving or in a vehicle as this can cause blurriness.

4. Make sure that the lighting is bright.

5. Having a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle with plenty of outdoor activities will also help.

6. Go for regular eye checks to ensure glasses are fitted properly and that there are no other eye problems.