A new study revealed that the controlled use of eye drops with the drug atropine in children may help decrease the effects of myopia or nearsightedness. Researchers in Singapore found that a low concentration or about 0.01 percent of atropine eye drops could slow down the onset of the eye condition.

Currently, about 80 to 90 percent of individuals in Asia are at risk of developing myopia which could later lead to eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma and macular degeneration. In the United States, fewer than half of the population suffers from nearsightedness.

In the 1990s, doctors had found evidence that atropine in eye drops could reduce myopia, but it also had some side effects. Atropine could dilate pupils, blur vision, and make it hard for individuals to see up close or to stand bright lights.

This prompted Dr. Donald Tan of the Singapore National Eye Center, lead researcher of the new study, to look into the matter.

In a five-year clinical study which was released and presented at the 119th annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Tan and his colleagues had been testing out different doses of eye drops with atropine on a group of 400 children with myopia.

The children took altropine eye drops every day in a span of two years. The researchers then monitored the children for a year off the eyedrops since the children's eyes will go into a growth spurt after stopping the use of the drug. They found that some patients' myopia rebounded during the year off the eye drops, so these patients were back on the low-dose atropine for another year.

These children were given the lowest dose of 0.01 percent, and researchers found that they had the least worsening of myopia compared to other patients who received the eye drops in other doses. "We slowed the progression of myopia by 50 percent," said Tan.

Pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. David Epley, who was not involved in the study, said that the findings could open atropine back into practical treatment for myopia.

"This gives us a tool to slow down that progression of myopia that we didn't have in a safe way before," said Epley.

However, little is known about atropine as a treatment to slow the progression of myopia. Researchers said they have yet to study how and what mechanism enables myopia to slow down, but they are hopeful that the findings are the beginning of finding helpful insights about the eye condition.

Photo : National Eye Institute | Flickr

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