Back to the topic of myopia which was the subject of a blog post a few months ago, and can be read here . Singapore's high rate of myopia appears to be largely due to our lifestyle, and it would be good for all parents and nannies to be aware of what measures can be taken to reduce it.
The Singapore Eye Research Institute has just completed a study which discovered that applying eye drops containing a very weak solution of atropine managed to decrease the rate progression of myopia by about half. In some cases there was even an improvement.
This is great news, because even though we may now have a reasonably good idea of how lifestyle can affect vision, it is not an easy thing to get people to make changes to, even if they are motivated to do so.
Atropine has been used before to treat myopia, but the dosages were higher and it sometimes caused side effects such as glare and the loss of near vision. Interestingly, atropine is derived from the Bella Donna and Wikipedia explains that:
The species name "belladonna" ("beautiful woman" in Italian) comes from the original use of deadly nightshade as a way of dilating women's pupils to make them beautiful".
Apparently the new treatment won't be ready until the middle of 2013 after another round of trials has been completed.
Good news for us short-sighted Singaporeans, but while waiting for the eye drops to hit the pharmacy shelves... Go outside!
While driving back home after dropping my daughter off at school I was, as usual, listening to the BBC.
The announcer said they were about to air a story about myopia in Asian children and so I immediately pulled over and turned on my flashing "Park Anywhere" lights which - as all good citizens understand - give us the inalienable right to, well, stop anywhere. Just drive your child to school one day and you will see what I mean.
Anyway the story began, and I whipped out my trusty iPhone (thanks Steve), pressed the Voice Memo icon and started recording.
I am a bit of a sun worshipper myself. I believe sunlight cures everything. Kills germs, burns off the fog of depression, energizes the mind, produces vitamin D, gives the skin a nice tone... and other stuff like that.
So when the announcer said that the cause for high rates of myopia in children from Japan, China and Singapore was that our kids did not get enough exposure to sunlight, I was riveted. Even the honking of the drivers behind me couldn't distract me. I don't what was wrong with them, I had my "Park Anywhere" lights on.
So when the first rays of that beautiful sunlight streamed through my window this morning to wake me up, I knew that I had to get that Voice Memo file off my iPhone and into this blog so that I could share it with my readers.
Here it is, but it seems the audio won't work in Windows Media Player (thanks Steve). (EDIT: I got it fixed, please see below)
As it happens, it doesn't matter all that much because this morning The Straights Times carried the same story. It is reproduced here. You will just miss out on that crisp BBC accent.
I did a little more Google-ing and found that there is quite a lot of evidence from experimental research which supports the study. One of them was interesting because it involved newly hatched chickens. Some were exposed to sunlight for a number of hours per day and others were kept inside with varying amounts of carefully measured light levels.
My favourite part was that one of the controls involved fitting the chicks with sunglasses. Cool chicks in sunglasses eh?
Interestingly, the sunglasses (I don't think they were REAL sunglasses), did not affect the amount of myopia the chicks suffered later on in life, but the ones exposed to sunlight avoided myopia.