A recent study published in JAMA by researchers in Hong Kong, suggests that the use of dilating eye drops in children may delay, or even prevent the onset of myopia. Myopia, or near-sightedness, can lead to a range of vision problems, including cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal detachment, and is irreversible once it develops.
The incidence of myopia has increased significantly in recent decades, nearly doubling in the US population from 25% to nearly 42% since the 1970s. Children have been particularly affected. Experts believe that spending more time indoors and increased screen time may be contributing to the trend.
Early intervention through the use of dilating eye drops may be an effective strategy for preventing the progression of myopia and reducing the risk of associated vision problems.
Understanding the latest study
A new study enrolled 474 children who did not have myopia at the start, with 353 completing the study after receiving nightly eye drops in both eyes for 2 years.
The study measured vision changes using the dioptre unit of measure and found that eye drops containing 0.05% atropine are more effective than drops with lower concentrations. These eye drops can slow the progression of myopia in children aged 4-12 who already have the condition. Atropine works by dilating the pupil and temporarily paralysing the eye’s ability to change focus.
Children in this new study received either 0.05% atropine, 0.01% atropine, or placebo drops once nightly in both eyes for 2 years. After 2 years, the researchers found that only 33/116 (28.4%) of the 0.05% atropine group developed myopia.
The percentage of children with myopia in the placebo group was larger than in the 0.05% atropine group by the end of the study. Discomfort when exposed to bright light was the main adverse event reported in all treatment groups. Another side effect that can be experienced at higher concentrations of atropine (can be up to 1%) is difficulties with near vision.
Other ways to prevent and delay myopia
Myopia is a growing problem worldwide and is not just a matter of inconvenience or the need for corrective lenses. It can also increase the risk of developing vision-threatening eye conditions later in life.
There are several steps parents can take to help prevent or manage myopia in their children. One approach is to decrease the duration of near vision tasks and ensure that their children take frequent breaks. Additionally, doctors recommend that children spend 60-80 minutes each day outdoors to give the eye muscles a chance to relax.
Importantly, by scheduling regular eye exams with your child’s eye doctor, they will be able to detect myopia in the early stages and can offer different treatments. This can involve specialised multifocal eyeglasses or contact lenses, or the use of eye drops, to control the progression of the condition.
By taking proactive steps to manage myopia, parents can help their children maintain good eye health and reduce the risk of complications later in life. This latest research is an exciting development and could potentially help reduce the rates of myopia in children.
If you are concerned your child may have myopia, book an appointment with Mr Imran Jawaid. He will check your child’s eye health, and if myopia is diagnosed, he can discuss with you a low-dose atropine treatment plan.