Atropine eye drops
Can a simple eye drop stop your child’s myopia?
If you or your child has been diagnosed with myopia (or short-sightedness), you might think glasses or contact lenses are the only option. Or, you may have heard of orthokeratology, a system of overnight contact lens wear that can slow or halt the progression of myopia.
But a simple eye drop can achieve the same thing in a majority of patients, according to some very powerful studies conducted on a large number of short-sighted children.
What is Atropine?
Atropine has been used for centuries for dilating the pupils of the eye. Women used plant extracts containing naturally occurring atropine to make their pupils larger to make themselves more attractive! For over a hundred years, atropine has been used by eye practitioners at a concentration of 1% as an eyedrop to dilate the pupil. At this concentration, the drug has a number of possible side effects such as dry mouth, allergy or blurry vision.
Atropine for myopia – the studies
A number of large-scale studies on short-sighted children (the ATOM-1 and ATOM-2 studies) tested the effectiveness of atropine in slowing the progression of myopia. The drug was used as once-a-day eye drops at various concentrations – 1%, 0.5%, 0.1% and 0.01% (which is one hundred times weaker than the atropine used in eye medicine to dilate the pupil).
The results were surprising but conclusive: atropine eye drops used once a day significantly slowed the progress of myopia.
Is it safe?
Atropine has been clinically available for over a century, and to date there are no known long-term adverse side effects associated with it, even at concentrations of 1%. The atropine dose for treating myopia is far lower. Three different doses were used in the study: 0.5%, 0.1% and 0.01%.
While the stronger doses had a slightly greater effect on slowing the progression of myopia, the absolute differences between the groups were small, with all three strengths bringing about significant slowing. Not only that, the side effects in the eye were better with the weakest formula (of 0.01%) which is only one hundredth the concentration of atropine used in clinical practice for over 100 years.
While the stronger doses caused a small number of cases of allergy (inflammation of the eyelid skin or conjunctiva) these side effects did not occur in the weaker dose.
Does your child have myopia?
Myopia is a progressive disorder. It not only means you are increasingly dependent on glasses or contact lenses to see, but also has implications for the health of the eyes. Diseases such as glaucoma, retinal detachment and macular disease are all far more likely asyour degree of myopia increases.
Myopia progresses particularly during puberty. If you can slow or halt the progression before puberty, you can nip this condition in the bud.
Atropine eye drops are a relatively simple and non-invasive way to slow down the rate of myopia progression in the majority of cases.
Is it guaranteed to work?
Atropine therapy doesn’t work for everyone, but results from the large-scale studies show that it is effective in slowing myopia. At The Eye Practice, we prescribe Atropine eye drops for myopia control as part of the full suite of myopia control options, which also includes orthokeratology and multifocal contact lenses.