Parents World Talks to Mr. Steve Newman (Director, Myopia Specialist Centre)
Healthy Vision Month is celebrated in May every year, and one of its focal points is Myopia or shortsightedness, a highly prevalent vision health concern in Singapore. In fact, Singapore is often referred as the Myopia Capital of the world – a dubious distinction with approximately 80% of children and young adults suffering from myopia. With a problem of this magnitude, it is imperative to take resolute action now as childhood myopia can lead to glaucoma and other vision problems in older age. The first measure to control and manage myopia is its early and correct detection followed by a focused approach on alleviation of the problem.
We quizzed Mr. Steve Newman, the Director of newly opened Myopia Specialist Centre – a first of its kind, premier institution in Asia specializing in the detection and management of myopia – on common concerns regarding myopia in children.
Mr. Steve Newman is currently the Chief Technical Officer of Menicon Co., Ltd. and was formerly the Executive Officer and Global R&D. He has 40 years of experience in the contact lens industry, particularly in the area of manufacturing and lens design. He holds numerous patents in the fields of toric and aberration managed contact lens designs, manufacturing methods, materials and contact lens packaging. He is responsible for Menicon’s global research and development and product development. He is interested in smart devices and augmented reality, and how they may impact visual development and functionality.
Q. What are the signs to look out for to spot if the child is developing myopia/short-sightedness?
Mr. Newman: “Typical signs that your child is suffering from myopia include,
- Complaining that their vision is not clear
- Sitting close to screens or holding them close to their faces
- Squinting whilst looking at objects or when reading
- Rubbing their eyes
- Headaches or complaining of tiredness
- Rapid blinking when looking at objects or screens”
Q. If detected early, is it possible to reverse myopia or stop it from progressing?
Mr. Newman: “Today’s state of myopia treatment has proven to be effective in slowing the progression in children if detected and acted upon early in their life. Whilst there are a number of differing treatment options available, including contact lens wear (day or night), specialist spectacles, pharmacological options etc, they can all slow down the progression of myopia by approximately half the rate of untreated progression.”
Q. What can parents do to slow down myopia progression in their children?
Mr. Newman: “Parents should have their children’s eyes tested early on and adopt such treatment’s as their Eye Care Specialist may recommend. Additionally they should introduce and maintain positive visual habits into their children’s daily routines. These include ensuring sufficient outdoor time (approx. 90 mins per day, limiting close work and providing appropriate lighting within the areas that their child will study or read.”
Q. Is it true that genes have a big role to play in a child developing myopia?
Mr. Newman: “It is true that genes play a role in myopia development, particularly if both parents are myopic. If this is the case, the risk profile of their children developing myopia increases significantly.”
Q. Does myopia stop progressing after a certain age?
Mr. Newman: “The rate of myopia progression will usually slow down as the child ages (usually this is around 18-21 years) but this can vary significantly, depending on the type of treatment they are using, their age at treatment inception, genetic make-up and lifestyle. Some patients will continue to progress into their adulthood as well. It is better to take a more proactive approach in treating myopia progression, rather than relying on natural aging to slow it down.”
Q. How do prescription lenses help with myopia control?
Mr. Newman: “Standard prescription lenses (remedial), whether they are spectacle or contact lens type, do not help slow down the progression of myopia, rather they just correct the child’s myopic refractive error. The best types of myopia management lenses (prospective) include specially designed spectacle lenses with unique areas of non-conventional optical design ( e.g. non-coaxial lenslets, offset aspheric zones etc) that create specifically designed optical triggers in the wearer’s eye that instigate a slowing of the axial length growth of the eye. Certain soft contact lenses have been designed to do the same thing and these include non-conventional aspheric zones or non-coaxial lenslets in their design. A unique hard lens called an orthokeratology lens can be used to slow down the progression of myopia. It is worn overnight whilst the child is asleep and will gently alter the anterior shape of the eye in such a manner as to achieve the same myopia slowing effect as the previously mentioned options. It is a safe and effective means of treating myopia progression and is commonly used for this purpose.”
Q. How is the Myopia Specialist Centre different from other eye care centres in Singapore?
Mr. Newman: “The Myopia Specialist Centre is unique in that it was designed and established with the sole purpose of diagnosing, treating and managing this disease from a state of the art perspective. No expense was spared on the equipment that has been accessed and installed. We have put together a scientific advisory board selected from the best academic myopia authorities from around the world and have optometrists who are fully trained in myopia control attending to patients.”
Q. What are the various myopia control and management programmes offered at MSC?
Mr. Newman: “The myopia management programs that are offered at the MSC are based around the latest contact lens designs and treatments such as overnight orthokeratology, daily disposable soft lens options, atropine and the latest non-coaxial spectacle options. We are constantly running clinical and product evaluation studies in order to provide the latest, proven technology to our patients.
The entire patient journey is managed from start to finish under a secure cloud based regime that involves the parent, the patient and the eye care specialist from day one. This system is unique in that it can support the patient through their entire myopia treatment journey, where ever they may end up being located….it is a lifetime support model.”
The Myopia Specialist Centre has been launched in partnership with industry leaders and experts and boasts of state of the art equipment and a customized suite of services and programmes to cater to myopia management and control.