While more research will be needed to confirm and replicate the findings, the study’s lead author terms the data promising, suggesting it could nip vision problems in the bud before they become a more serious issue later in life.
“Early onset [of] myopia is associated with high myopia later in life and it’s irreversible,” warns Dr Jason Yam, the lead study author and associate professor of ophthalmology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Therefore, delay in myopia onset can decrease the risk of high myopia and future complications.
Our study established the most effective method to delay myopia onset.”
The research, funded by government and different charities, found that eye drops containing 0.05 percent atropine gave the best results. The difference between these eye drops and those containing either a placebo or 0.05pc atropine was statistically significant.
Yam says that he and his colleagues are continuing to follow up with participants in the study to evaluate longer-term effects.
Another optometrist, Dana Spearin, agrees, saying: “All of my patients who are on 0.05pc atropine have not had an abnormal myopic or nearsighted increase over a 2-year period.”
“Since the 1970s, the incidence of myopia has nearly doubled, rising from 25 percent of the US population to 42pc, but predicted to increase to over 50 percent in the next 20 years,” warns Vasilakos. “Once a child becomes myopic, their vision deteriorates every 6 to 12 months, requiring a stronger and stronger prescription,” she says.
She observes that in most young adults, myopia will eventually stabilize, but the initial progression of the condition, where the eyes stretch and grow too much, can lead to bigger eye problems later in life, such as a myopic macular degeneration, retinal detachment, glaucoma, and cataracts.
However, there’s a range of treatment options available, from the atropine drops, to specialised contact lenses to orthokeratology, or ortho-k — contact lenses that act like a retainer to shape the eye and improve vision.
“Follow the 20-20-20+2 rule: for every 20 minutes of screen time, take a 20-second break, look at something 20 feet away or more, and spend at least 2 hours outside each day, throughout the day,”says Vasilakos.