CUHK Study First Proves Low-Concentration Atropine Eye Drops Reduce Myopia Progression in Children with Minimal Side Effects
Myopia, or shortsightedness, is the most common ocular disorder worldwide. Several international studies suggested atropine eye drops could slow down myopic progression in children, and thus lowering the risk of sight-threatening eye diseases associated with high myopia. However, the main concerns that deter the use of traditional atropine drops include the loss of focusing for near reading, and photophobia (excessive sensitivity to light) due to pupil dilation.
The Faculty of Medicine of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) conducted the world’s first randomised placebo-controlled, double-masked trial on low-concentration atropine eye drops to evaluate their efficacy and safety. Results showed low-concentration atropine eye drops could reduce myopic progression for school children by up to nearly 70% , with much reduced side effects. These findings have been published in the international journal Ophthalmology. The team is about to launch a second phase of the study to explore the efficacy and safety of the low-concentration eye drops in the long run, and their roles for preventing the onset of myopia.
Hong Kong has the highest prevalence of myopia worldwide
Myopia is an eye disease associated with excessive eyeball growth, resulting in visual images from distant objects being focused in front of, instead of directly on, the retina. Distant vision is thus blurred in a myopic eye. It is predicted that approximately half of the world’s population will be myopic by 2050, with the highest prevalence in East Asia, including Hong Kong.
Professor Clement CY THAM, Chairman and S. H. Ho Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences from the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Faculty of Medicine at CUHK remarked, “The increasing prevalence of myopia, arising from the change of lifestyle due to urbanisation, and the increased demand for near work due to the rise of usage in of electronic products such as smartphones and tablets, concerns many countries. With the largest myopic population in the world, the central Chinese government declared myopia control as a national policy last year, and vowed to lower the prevalence of myopia in 6-year-old children to 3%, primary school students to below 38%, and junior and senior high school students to below 60% and 70% respectively, by year 2030.”
Dr. Simon Tak Chuen KO, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Faculty of Medicine at CUHK added, “Hong Kong is among those places with the highest prevalence of myopia worldwide. A population-based vision screening programme for Hong Kong children conducted by the CUHK ophthalmology team between 2015 and 2017 revealed that the prevalence of myopia for children aged 6 to 8 ranges from 10% to 41%, and this increases with age.”