Among the available options for treating childhood myopia, atropine drops are becoming increasingly popular as a way to slow the progression. This is an intervention rather than a cure to stop the progression of the disease. Atropine eye drops have an excellent safety profile, having been used for over 100 years and are even used in infants' eyes. While most people are familiar with atropine in its use to dilate eyes during a comprehensive eye exam, atropine for myopia management is used in lower doses and does not cause blurred vision like it does at higher doses.

What is myopia?

Myopia is an ocular condition that makes you unable to see clearly far away either because your eyeball is too long or because your eyes have an overly strong front curvature. Myopia is becoming a growing health concern today because the higher your myopia gets, the greater your chances of suffering from various eye conditions, such as retinal detachments, glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration. All of these eye diseases pose a danger to sight and vision, and in many cases vision loss from these diseases is irreversible.

What is myopia management and how is atropine treatment used to manage myopia?

Myopia management is the term used for different eye doctor-led treatments that slow down the progression of childhood myopia. For example if a child begins their myopia progression at age 8, their myopia will continue to get worse every year unless something is done to slow down the progression. In the past, eye doctors would fit a child with eyeglasses for their myopia, and the child would come back annually for a new prescription as their myopia worsens. However, now that scientific consensus shows that high myopia leads to higher rates of eye disease, a greater emphasis is placed on slowing down the rate of myopia, and not just correcting the vision through glasses. Among the most effective ways to manage myopia is through the use of atropine. Atropine is a drop that patients are required to put into their eyes every single night. Using low doses of atropine doesn’t have any type of side effects. A high dose of atropine, such as 1%, may cause some side effects, including blurry vision up close and sensitivity to light. A low dose of atropine, for example 0.025% or 0.05%, can be used for myopia patients without causing any side effects. Patients who experience side effects can opt for bifocal progressives to reduce blurry near vision or transitions over their glasses to help them with light sensitivity. The benefits of atropine definitely outweigh any sort of side effects the patient may be experiencing since it is important to slow down the progression of their axial length and overall myopia. We often recommend using atropine, especially for those who do not want to give up their glasses or who do not want specialty contact lenses. If a patient has been wearing ortho-k lenses or multifocal contact lenses and they haven’t really slowed down the progression of myopia, then using atropine on top of them would be very effective because atropine works in a different way to slow down myopia.

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