SINGAPORE: The Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) is leading a study on atropine eye drops as a possible preventive treatment for the onset of myopia in children at risk, the centre announced at a press conference on Tuesday (Jun 6).
This third phase of the Atropine Treatment of Myopia (ATOM) study aims to look at how low dose atropine eye drops can prevent and control the onset of myopia in children at risk, such as those with a family history of moderate myopia.
Multiple studies have shown that a low dose of atropine eye drops - with 0.01 per cent concentration of atropine - can slow the progression of myopia by up to 60 per cent.
"We've had atropine eye drops available for many years,” said SNEC's Prof Donald Tan. “The normal concentration is 1 per cent and we've been using it to dilate the pupil for certain eye conditions where we want to dilate the eye (and) also to treat lazy eye in babies.”
“However, we realise that a side effect of atropine is that it stops excessive eye growth, so now ... it is used as a form of myopia control,” he added.
Myopia, or shortsightedness, is a common eye ailment among the young in Singapore, with around eight out of 10 children contracting it by the time they turn 18. This, in turn, increases their risk of developing serious eye complications in the long run, such as glaucoma and cataract.
Two previous clinical trials involving 800 children were conducted between 1996 and 2012, using varying concentrations of atropine. The studies found that a low dose of 0.01 per cent of atropine slowed myopia progression by 50 to 60 per cent, with none of the side effects associated with higher doses - such as having near blur and glare.
“What we've done is we've dropped the concentration all the way down from 1 per cent to 0.01 per cent – so that's one hundredth the concentration. (This) low dose atropine is still very effective in reducing myopia progression," said Prof Tan.
The three to three-and-a-half year study aims to recruit 600 children with low myopia who are aged between five and nine for a new round of trials.