In this day of computers and digital devices where children spend virtually all their time indoors, playing outdoors has become even more important. Why?

Outdoor play delays onset of myopia

According to the Paediatric Ophthalmology & Adult Strabismus Department from Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), playing outdoors can help prevent or delay the onset of myopia. SNEC is a member of the SingHealth group.

     ​Myopia Prevention in Children: Play Outdoors!     ​Myopia Prevention in Children: Play Outdoors!

Spending time outdoors also reduces children’s risk of developing high myopia (500 degrees or more) in later years

High myopia in adults can lead to pathological myopia, in which the eyeball elongates (above, right), and other conditions such as myopic macular degeneration, cataract, and glaucoma, all of which can cause irreversible blindness.

How being outdoors can help prevent myopia is bright outdoor light stimulates the release of dopamine in the retina, which prevents elongation of the eye, thus helping to keep myopia at bay.

Watch this video to learn more!


But when outdoors, don't forget about sun protection!

When your child is outdoors, be sure to keep him/her protected from the sun by putting on sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and wrap-around sunglasses, and ensure he/she drinks plenty of water to avoid dehydration. 

In Singapore, it is best to go out early in the morning or later in the evening because often, it gets too hot between 10am and 4pm.

If my child already has myopia, what can I do?

For a child with myopia, the Paediatric Ophthalmology & Adult Strabismus Department
suggests the following to manage the condition:

  1. See an eye care professional so that the child's myopia progression rate can be monitored and treatment can be considered. 

  2. Moderate your child's time spent on near work such as reading and writing; using the computer, or playing handheld games should be moderated. 

  3. Encourage your child to take frequent eye breaks.

  4. For children who developed myopia at an early age, the most effective way to slow the progression of myopia is atropine eye drops. But this is recommended on a case-by-case basis. 

As a child grows up, myopia progresses at a slower pace, and treatment can then include special daily disposable contact lenses. There are ongoing clinical trials in many countries, including Singapore, to test their safety and efficacy.

Study on myopia conducted by Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) and NUS

The study, which studied 1,979 seven- to nine-year-olds, found that 69.1 per cent of participants aged 11 to 18 had myopia; 12.6 per cent had high myopia. 

It also found that the best way to predict whether a child would develop high myopia is to look at when he or she first became short-sighted. 

The earlier a child develops myopia, the more likely he/she is likely to develop high myopia in later life, because there is more time for the myopia to progress, until about 20 to 25 years of age when the condition stabilises.

According to the study, the mean age at which Singaporean children start having myopia is eight and a half. 

For every year earlier than this, the final degree increases by 100. Progression is also highest in the first three years after the onset of myopia, so the earlier treatment starts, the better.

Singapore: The Myopia Capital of the World

According to MOH, the prevalence of myopia in Singapore is among the highest in the world, with 65 percent of our children being myopic by Primary 6, and 83 percent of young adults being myopic. As such, Singapore is often labelled as the “Myopia Capital of the World”. 

By 2050, it is projected that 80 to 90 per cent of all Singaporean adults above 18 years old will be myopic and 15 to 25 per cent of these individuals may have high myopia.

Ref: H24 (ed)

Check out other articles on child eye conditions:

Mobile Device Overuse Raises Child Myopia Risk

Common Eye Conditions in Children

What is Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)?

Strabismus (Squint) in Children: How to Treat

FAQs on Common Eye Conditions for Children