Myopia (short-sightedness) can occur at a very young age for children. If your child is affected by myopia, they most likely struggle to see distant objects clearly. Just like adults, myopia arises when the light rays entering the eye are focused in the front of the retina rather than on the retina. Myopic patients may also have an elongated eyeball.
Is your child at risk of myopia?
While there is still much medical science don’t know about myopia, genetics and environmental factors are the largest contributors in the development of myopia. Genetics can play a role in myopia and your child will naturally be at higher risk when both parents have myopia. Excessive near work such as reading, watching TV and working on computer/mobile has been known to contribute to the development of myopia. Myopic patients will usually go through constant changes in their script until it stabilises as they reach their early 20’s.
Severe myopia can increase the risk of developing certain sight-threatening eye conditions. Any patient who suffers from severe myopia will be at risk of:
Retinal Detachment – Because a myopic eyeball is elongated, the retina is stretched thinner than usual. This increases the chances of a retinal tear or in more serious cases a retinal detachment. This condition can lead to blindness if it is not treated promptly.
Glaucoma – Severe myopia can cause an increase in eye pressure. If the eye pressure is left untreated, this will lead to glaucoma which can cause a significant loss of vision.
Cataracts – There have been many research findings indicating the association between high myopia and cataracts. Because the elongated axial length of the eyeball, some vital nutrients are deprived to the entire eye possibly causing cataracts to develop early.
Macular Degeneration – Due to the elongation of the eye, high myopic patients are at higher risk of developing myopic macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is a condition that impairs the central vision and can lead to blindness.
There are a few successful methods to reduce the progression of myopia in a growing child.
- Atropine 0.01% eye drops
- Orthokeratology contact lenses
- Special Spectacle lenses
All these methods can attempt to reduce the progression of myopia with some demonstrating better results than others.
Atropine eye drops
Atropine is a safe anti-muscarinic eyedrop used commonly in ophthalmology. Studies have shown that Atropine can help in strengthening the sclera causing a reduction in the elongation of the eyeball – which in turn causing myopia.
Recent studies have demonstrated that a lower concentration of atropine can help control myopia with fewer to no side effects. These same studies have also shown that atropine could potentially reduce the progression of myopia by 50%.
Is your child the right candidate?
Atropine eye drops are suitable for children aged 6-12 suffering from myopia.
Your child will have to be checked by the eye doctor before any treatment can be recommended. The treatment involves a drop of 0.01% atropine each night for at least one year. You will be asked to visit your eye specialist a few times a year to check the progress of the treatment. It is important to note that these drops aim to reduce the progression of myopia but it cannot stop myopia from developing.
With the correct dosage of atropine, the child will not experience any slight sensitivity or reading issues which are the common side effects of the atropine drops. The mild transient stinging of the drop will go away quickly only causing a slight amount of discomfort for the child.