Myopia, commonly known as nearsightedness, is the commonest reason children require eyeglasses, and it tends to progress rapidly in childhood. In the United States, 42% of the population is myopic, compared with 25% in the 1970’s. People with severe nearsightness (high myopia) are at higher risk for serious eye problems such as retinal detachment, macular degeneration, premature cataracts and glaucoma. Researchers in Singapore posed a question: what if there is a way to slow down the progression of myopia in children?
Dr. Tan’s group used several different concentrations of the eye drop atropine in children over a period of 5 years and analyzed the progression of myopia in these children. They found that the lowest dose of atropine (0.01%) resulted in the lowest level of nearsightedness over time with few to no side effects. The pupil dilation was less than 1 mm and there was no impairment of the near vision (a common side effect of higher doses of atropine).
This interesting study showed that low doses of atropine in children resulted in up to a 50% reduction in the progression of myopia. More studies will be needed to determine when it is safe to begin the treatment and for how long it is needed. Further, the exact mechanism by which atropine affects the progression of nearsightedness is not known.
Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting, November 2015
Michelle Akler, MD
Detroit Area LASIK Surgeon