Alana’s eyesight was deteriorating at an alarming rate due to myopia, until her mother decided to switch her glasses to contact lenses!

Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is a condition in which people can see near objects well but struggle seeing things far away. It’s a regressive and increasingly prevalent condition, particularly in urban Asia, with Singapore considered one of the myopia capitals in the world.

Not only is the condition increasingly prevalent among younger children, but its severity is also greater. Studies by the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) confirm that 10% of Singaporean children will be myopic by age five, increasing up to 60% and 80% by 12 and 18 years old. Plus, up to 90% of Singaporean adults (above 18) are projected to be myopic by 2050, with 15% to 25% of them at risk of high myopia, which is defined as myopia of -6.00 diopters or higher.

Fashion entrepreneur Dr Fock Ee-Ling, 41, is part of this statistic. Diagnosed with myopia at age seven, Dr Fock has been classified legally blind after her condition progressed to -10.00 diopters when she turned 20. As someone who has struggled with severe myopia her entire life, Dr Fock is aware that myopia has a strong genetic link, which is why she was not surprised when all her three children were diagnosed with the condition.

Alana’s deteriorating eyesight

While both of Dr Fock’s sons are myopic, their myopia is not severe, stabilising at -2.00 diopters at one time. Her daughter Alana, however, was not so lucky.

According to Dr Fock, Alana began complaining of poor vision at age five. Alana was squinting and looking out of her better eye when watching television.

Determined to get her daughter’s eyesight under control, Dr Fock and her husband brought Alana to see Consultant Ophthalmologist, Dr Cheryl Ngo, who after conducting a few tests, diagnosed Alana with a degree of myopia (DOM) of 0.75 diopters (mild myopia) and prescribed her with spectacles and atropine eye drops.

Just months later Alana complained of poor vision again, which prompted Dr Ngo to increase Alana’s lens prescription and atropine dosage. The relief was again shortlived;  she complained about her eyesight again soon after, resulting in an increase in prescriptions.

“By the time Alana was seven, her myopia had worsened to -4.75 diopters and we had visited Dr Ngo at least four times in just two years!” shares Dr Fock.

Consultant Ophthalmologist, Dr Cheryl Ngo from ACE Clinic

Consultant Ophthalmologist, Dr Cheryl Ngo from ACE Clinic

Trying out contact lenses

Concerned that Alana’s eyesight was deteriorating a much faster rate than when she was a child, Dr Fock wanted Alana to try contact lenses, as they had helped Dr Fock control her myopia as a teenager.

After consulting with Dr Ngo, Alana’s mum opted for the daytime dual-focus contact lenses because they are disposable, which reduces risks of infection.

“It took some persuading, but Alana eventually agreed to giving contact lenses a go. She had her first lens fitting at age seven. During the fitting, an optometrist encouraged Alana to touch and feel a pair of lenses and taught her different techniques for keeping her eyes open and how to insert/remove them herself,” says Dr Fock.

“We returned to the optometrists a few days later for another fitting. While Alana couldn’t put the lenses in herself during the first fitting, she managed to do so during the second one. The optometrist also gave us four trial pairs so that Alana could practice inserting/removing them at home and get used to leaving them on for a longer time.”

A life-changing treatment

Although it took some time for Alana to get familiar with her contact lenses, Dr Fock says they are now a major part of Alana’s life.

“She wears them four to five times a week and is so comfortable in them that I have to remind her to take them out after a full day’s use!”

Since using contact lenses, Alana has stopped complaining about deteriorating vision for the first time since her diagnosis. Eye examinations six and twelve months after her first contact lens fitting respectively, showed she not only enjoyed crystal-clear vision while wearing the contact lenses, but her DOM had stabilised at -4.75 diopters.

While Dr Fock is glad that Alana’s vision is under control, she continues to emphasise the importance of  eye care hygiene to her daughter to avoid chances of lens-related complications.

“I make it a point to remind Alana to wash her hands before putting on her lenses and to take them off at any sign of irritation. I also ensure she always has an extra pair of glasses in her school bag just in case her lenses fall out, and to avoid wearing them for longer than recommended as this increases the risk of infection,” she shares.

Lifestyle changes

Apart from prescribed treatments for their myopia, Dr Fock encourages healthy eye habits in her children, such as minimising prolonged hours of near work and encouraging more outdoor play.

“My sons are swimmers and spend more time in the sun, which is probably why they have better vision than Alana, as UVB rays can slow down myopia progression. That’s why I try to encourage Alana to swim and play outside more, but it can be quite a challenge because she is a bit of a bookworm,” shares Dr Fock.

“I try to ensure that she always reads or does homework under proper lighting, and she rests her eyes after reading for a certain period of time. At the same time, I encourage my sons to try out contact lenses because of how well they’ve worked for Alana, and I hope they will make the switch when they are older and more ready for them.”