Feb. 14, 2023 -- Eye drops commonly used before eye exams could delay nearsightedness from developing in children, according to new research.
Atropine drops are used to relax eye muscles and dilate the pupils. Using a low concentration could prevent myopia, or nearsightedness, in children, says the research in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
About a third of Americans have nearsightedness. That percentage should increase to almost 60% within 30 years because people spend more time indoors and looking at electronic screens, The Wall Street Journal reported. Severe myopia can lead to retinal detachment, glaucoma, and cataracts.
“Myopia occurs when the eyeball gets longer and the light entering the eye no longer reaches the retina at the back of the eye, doctors say,” the newspaper wrote. “That leads to the need for glasses or contact lenses, which work by directing light back onto the retina.”
Atropine drops keep people from seeing what is close to them, said Nimesh Patel of Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the research. He said it isn’t precisely known how the drops block nearsightedness.
Hong Kong researchers examined 353 kids between ages 4 - 9. They gave one group a placebo, another group a low dose of the drops, and a third group a higher dose every night for two years. Those who received the higher dose had a lower incidence of developing myopia and had less lengthening of the eyeballs.
Researchers hope that delaying the onset of nearsightedness, which progresses quickly in youngsters, could make it less severe in adulthood.