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Focus on the young


Dr Lee writes on her surprise on returning to Singapore, the high percentage of Singaporean children who wear glasses and her experience with controlling short sightedness in children and teaching Ortho k use in young kids.

We were also recognised by The Straits Times for creating public awareness on myopia as a significant problem in Singapore.

AFTER spending more than 10 years overseas in a wide range of specialist training at Cheltenham, Cambridge and Bristol in the United Kingdom; Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Mi­ami in the United States; and the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, France, Dr Cheryl Lee chose to re­turn to Singapore.

Her clinic, Pacific Eye Centre, is dedicated to treating myopia — which includes myopia control in children, implantable contact lenses and retinal diseases linked to myopia such as floaters, cataracts, retinal detachments and macula degeneration.

Trained to work with children, she is dedicated to helping to bring childhood myopia under control in Singapore, and has been allowing Baby Bonus claims at her clinic for eye checks and myopia control treatments.

We have the highest proportion of short-sighted children in the world. Eighty per cent of 18 –year olds here are myopic. “Our degree of myopia is higher compared to other parts of the world;’ she says.

There are two methods of control that are scientifically proven. One of them that Dr Lee is working on is orthokeratolgy, or ortho-k, which uses alt extremely high oxygen permeable contact lens to temporarily reshape the cornea. “The contact lenses are worn while sleeping and taken out upon awakening. “This means that the child’s sight will be good during the clay hence allowing him or her to go to school, exercise and swim without needing glasses or contact lenses,” she explains.

It focuses the light rays on the central retina but brings the mid-periphery light rays in front of the retina. This is based on the theory that peripheral focus will slow down axial elongation and hence slows down myopia progression.

Teaching the child how to handle the contact lens is surprisingly not that difficult. The youngest patient we had was a five-year-old girl;’ she says.

We had a 10-year-old boy who swims competitively but had prob­lems in and out of water due to his myopia and astigmatism. He also did not like his appearance with the thick glasses and it affected his so­cial interactions.

He started on the ortho-k and it corrected his vision to 6/6 after one week and he has been transformed. A child’s self confidence can be lowered by how they think they look, and this cannot be underestimated.”

Another method that Dr Lee’s clinic is working on is the use of atropine eye drops.

“Atropine eye drops work on the theory that relaxing the internal eye muscles will eliminate the strain of near work on the eyes.

“At 1 per cent concentration, it can potentially reduce the rate of myopia progression by about 76 per cent, but it has the potential side effects or pupil dilation and sensitivity to light.

So we prefer to start at 0.01 per cent concentration, which has been shown to work just as well with none of those side effects,” she says.

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