Alyssa spent a day with me to experience a day as an eye doctor. As she was wearing orthoK, I wanted to
pry into the mind of an 18 year old.
Every day, the first thing we do is open our eyes. Some may see the soft slivers of golden light peeking through closed blinds or the ritualistic dance of spiralling dust particles as they float against the glow of the morning sun. Some can see the gentle lavender sky merging with peach and amber, creating a beautiful gradient as the sun arises.
But I can’t.
For me, the slivers aren’t slivers. They’re just beams against the dark silhouette of my curtains. The sky is no longer purple, blue, or orange but a dull, mundane gray. Things are no longer microscopic; they’re macroscopic. The palette of my vision becomes a whirlwind of colors but is never a true painting. Details only become apparent when I squint but even so, they may not appear.
Why you may ask? It’s because I have a disorder. One that you may have heard of before: Myopia. In fact, not many of us are strangers to this disease – almost 80% of Singaporeans have this, whether they be children or adults. You see, when I was younger, I used to read a lot. I could read up to 5 books a week. I didn’t have to wear glasses back then but as my hobby developed, I noticed that my eyesight began to worsen until I could hardly make out what was being written on the whiteboard. It was then I decided I needed to get help so I went to my local Optician, but all they did was check my degree, prescribe me glasses, help me choose the color of glasses, and at the end of the day, I left with a new piece of eyewear and with the knowledge that I had my Myopia.
But I was only 7 years old! I didn’t know what Myopia was! What caused it? How can I prevent it? Can it get better? I only knew that I shouldn’t read for too long and if I did, stop and look far away. But how far is far away? For how long? At what intervals? When could I continue reading? Because I had no idea what to do, I would read my book fervently for 45 minutes under my desk, stare outside my classroom window for about a minute, and then go back to reading. I would read and read and read until my eyeballs hurt but hey, at least I satisfied my duty to do some “far-sighted activity” right?
Unfortunately, that wasn’t correct. My eyesight continued to worsen until my power progressively became 300-400+. Now that I’m older, I realize that an issue that we should be wary of is that misinformation or rather a lack of information, can be a very common thing, whether we are aware of it or not. I believe it is important to note that Myopia is an intrinsic issue in our culture (Singapore has one of the highest rates of myopia in the world) or at least at my age and so, it is something that has to be constantly contended with. Wearing glasses isn’t enough to do the trick nor is one short visit to the Optician. That is where understanding the disease is essential and where I think, visiting an Ophthalmologist can be beneficial. Most of the time, Opticians may not be as qualified to answer our questions or they may not necessarily tell us the information we need to know. So, by fielding any concerns or questions to a doctor, more specific information can be obtained.
Whilst shadowing Dr. Cheryl Lee, I managed to see many patients who had the same issue and concerns but they left the clinic with a lot more information than I had when I was at their age. For example, “far-sighted” activity is anything that we do that is further than a full arm’s distance away from your eyes, so participating in sports (other than swimming), going out for a walk or baking, etc. are included! If you want to engage in near-sighted activities, regulate them at intervals – 20 minutes of participation in near-sighted activities, then switching to 20 minutes of far-sighted activity, is a good start. Knowing how to deal with this condition at a younger age is important. If these good practices are incorporated into your daily routine at an early stage, you’re on a good track to controlling your Myopia. Another interesting and effective way to stop myopia from progressing is to use Orthokeratology (OrthoK). It entails using contact lenses that induce a temporary but a similar effect as LASIK and can even improve your vision over time. However, from my experience, this was not an option for me because I didn’t even know about it! My Optician did not introduce me to OrthoK but now, it’s something that I would highly recommend to those who seek to improve their eyesight. There are many things that we can do to prevent the progression of myopia and it is important that we are informed of the options, but they are not always provided to us. Personally, I have not consulted an Ophthalmologist but during my time at the clinic, I realized there were so many options that were available to me and because I did not do any external research on eyecare, I became complacent and let my vision deteriorate. I regretted this as the deterioration was preventable.