If your child has myopia, numerous treatment options can significantly improve your child’s condition. Some ways of controlling myopia have been used for decades, while others are more cutting-edge. One type of treatment called atropine eye drops is used frequently to help with the disorder.
What is Myopia?
Before treatments begin, it is good to educate yourself about myopia. The eye disorder known as myopia occurs because the eyes grow too quickly and excessively beyond the average rate of eye growth. The eyes should continue to grow steadily throughout childhood and stabilise during the teenage years. However, in myopia, rapid growth leads to continual deterioration of vision. Additionally, the stabilisation of eye growth does not occur. For those with myopia, growth continues through the teenage years and even in early adulthood. This ongoing deterioration is called myopia progression.
The hallmark of myopia is blurred vision when looking at faraway objects. Unfortunately, as myopia increases, blurred vision occurs at arm’s length or closer. Spectacles or single-vision contact lenses can help to correct vision but offer no help in slowing the disorder’s progression.
Because of the potential for visual impairment and long-term eye disease, the World Health Organisation now lists myopia as a global health concern.
Help to Control Myopia
Controlling myopia is essential. Unless it is contained, patients with the eye disorder will struggle with vision that rapidly deteriorates. This leads to frequent prescription changes and is also a factor in eye diseases in the future.
There are several methods used to control myopia with varying degrees of success. Specialised spectacles or contact lenses can be helpful. One of the most effective methods used to manage rapid growth and deterioration is atropine eye drops for myopia.
What is Atropine?
Atrophine’s use in medicine dates back to the 1800s when taken for numerous ailments. More recently, atropine gained notoriety for its effectiveness in controlling the progression of myopia. Its side effect of light sensitivity called its use into question.
As recently as ten years ago, researchers discovered that using atropine eye drops at a lower concentration had an excellent therapeutic impact without the sensitivity to light that occurred at a higher concentration.
Scientists believe that atropine influence how chemical signals are conducted in the retina, the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye. This leads to a slowing of the eye growth and reducing the stretching of the retinas. Research continues to pinpoint the precise mechanism in atropine that impacts myopia.
Controlling Myopia in Children with Atropine
There are few absolutes in controlling myopia because each child’s eyes respond differently to treatments. However, using atropine to control myopia is a favoured treatment method. Researchers found that the use of atropine in children aged 4-14 in a concentration of 0.02% and 0.025% has been shown to slow myopia progression by about one-third. Additionally, a concentration of atropine of 0.05% slowed the disorder’s progression by one-half compared to children receiving a placebo treatment.
Atrophine’s impact increases when the treatment is paired with ortho-k contact lenses. This effect is most noticeable in children ages 6-12. You should note that if your child is receiving atropine treatments to help slow the progression of myopia, they will still need to wear spectacles or contact lenses to allow them to see clearly. The atropine drops only work to slow the progression of myopia and does not improve the vision or reduce blurriness.
Controlling Myopia in Teens Using Atropine Drops
Typically, teens are more self-aware and notice small vision changes. This makes reporting problems a bit easier than with younger kids. A teenager experiencing the difficulties of myopia may be more cooperative using the atropine drops than a younger child.
Studies show that about half of all children with myopia stabilise by age 16. Unfortunately, this means about half of those with the disorder will continue to experience deterioration of their vision without continued intervention.
Atropine drops tend to work best for those 14 and under. Additionally, the bulk of the research regarding the use of the drops includes younger age groups. The reason is likely the stabilisation of myopia that takes place for 15 and 16-year-olds.
As with younger myopia patients, teens must continue to wear corrective lenses to combat blurry vision while using the atropine drops. Additionally, the same recommendations for two hours outdoors and reduced screen time apply to teens with myopia as those for children.
Who is Suitable for Atropine Drops for Myopia?
Atropine drops have a success rate in children between the ages of 6 and 14. However, some research suggests that the drops are impactful up to 16 years of age. Myopia in very young children is frequently associated with other health concerns limiting clinical trials.
How are Atropine Drops Used?
The standard instructions for atropine drops for controlling myopia are a drop in each eye in the morning and again in the evening.
How Does Controlling Myopia Improve the Lives of Young People?
Children and teens with well-controlled myopia will experience fewer prescription changes in the short term. They will also have much less deterioration than peers with myopia that is not being managed.
In the long term, those with controlled myopia will have better overall vision. Additionally, heading into adulthood, these children will have a lower risk of:
Life-Long Visual Impairment
Poor Overall Eye Health
Other Factors Influencing Risks of Myopia
Environmental factors can influence the likelihood of myopia. To decrease the possibility of your child developing myopia, encourage them to spend about two hours a day outside.
Additionally, try to limit screen time and instruct kids to increase space between themselves and screens. Less screen time or time doing other close work can also help reduce instances of myopia.
The health of your and your children’s eyes is our priority at E Eye Place. This is why we encourage regular eye exams, especially for children exhibiting signs of visual disturbances.
No matter what the diagnosis, you can rest assured that our team of professionals will use the latest techniques and treatments to provide the best vision possible.
Feel free to contact us to make an appointment for your next eye examination. Excellent vision is no accident.
Stephanie is an owner optometrist, researcher and educator. She has held clinical, teaching and research roles in Australia and overseas, and has extensive training and clinical experience. Stephanie is also the head optometrist at E Eye Place, on top of this, she is also currently a PhD candidate at UNSW. Dr Stephanie Yeo Optometrist BOptom (HC1) GradCertOcTher DOPT (Merit) CO Ophthalmic Medicines Prescriber.