What is Atropine?
Atropine is a once-a-week eye drop therapy which reduces spectacle prescription power and myopia progression in children.
Atropine is a naturally occurring medicine extracted from the “Belladona” plant. Centuries ago, it was used by women to dilate their pupils and make their eyes appear larger and more beautiful. Other than aesthetic purposes, Atropine has a wide range of use in general medicine and ophthalmology. As an eye drop, it has been used for decades to treat certain types of childhood squints and eye inflammations.
In more recent times, Atropine has been scientifically proven to slow down the progression of myopia in children and reduce myopic power.
Why do Atropine eye drops help?
Atropine has beneficial effects on myopia control through its direct effect on preventing eyeball elongation that occurs when myopia power increases. It relaxes the focusing muscles of the eye and helps prevent the child from over-squeezing his or her focusing muscles when doing prolonged near work like studying or using the computer.
This helps to curb your child’s myopic power from rapidly hitting the unhealthily high or severe levels of 600-1200 degrees or more, thus protecting your child from the risk of developing eye disorders and sight-threatening diseases associated with high prescription power when they grow up.
Many parents worldwide have adopted Atropine to treat their child’s myopic condition. Our little red dot is no exception. Locally, eye doctors have recommended it to thousands of school children for more than ten years, and so far, responses have been positive.
For the sake of your child’s future eye health, investing a little time and money is definitely worth it. Just one drop a week to your child’s eyes can play a big part in helping to reduce his or her prescription power and ensure their myopia is kept under control.
To whom is Atropine for?
Atropine therapy is suitable for all children aged six years and above with myopia exceeding 200 degrees. A point to note is that the earlier one starts therapy, the better the final outcome is in controlling myopia progression and severity.
How do I use Atropine?
Drip a single drop into each of your child’s eyes once a week, just before bedtime (preferably on a Friday of Saturday night when your child does not have a full day of school the next day.
What will my child experience?
Atropine causes the pupils to dilate and it also relaxes the eye’s focusing muscles. This means over that over the next two days after the drops are first administered, the child will experience an increased sensitivity to light. He or she may find intense outdoor sun (especially during mid-day) to be glaring to the eyes, and are encouraged to opt for indoor activities for the next few days. Also, after the drops are administered, children wearing strong power glasses may complain of reading difficulties with existing glasses and should take off their glasses to read. Otherwise, the glasses prescription will need to be lowered.
When is the best time to use Atropine and why?
The eye drop should be administered at night, and preferably on weekends just before the child goes to sleep. This is because the child will be more light sensitive over the next few days after the drops are instilled. As such, Friday and Saturday nights are the preferred days of the week to instil the eye drops so that so that children have the flexibility of opting for indoor activities over the weekend and parents can better monitor the child’s activities when outdoors like ensuring they wear a cap, sunglasses or transition lens.
What if my child has swimming classes or other outdoor activities on weekends?
If your child has swimming classes on the weekends, you may want to opt for the classes during the morning or late evening rather than mid-day, when the sun is at its hottest and brightest. You should also ensure that your child uses tinted swimming goggles to protect the eyes from the sun’s glare during these activities.
Alternatively, you may also choose to administer the Atropine eye drops on other days.
What if my child complains of blurry vision?
After the first two days from when the eye drops have been administered, your child might complain of blurry vision especially when reading. To correct this, it is helpful to remove glasses for reading or wear a lower power spectacle prescription. However, if this persists past a few days, do take your child to the eye doctor.
Will spectacles power be affected?
Children on Atropine eye drop therapy will usually report an initial slight drop in spectacle prescription. On average, parents can expect a 50 to 100 degree drop in myopia power.
What about my child's existing spectacles?
If your child uses Atropine therapy, you are encouraged to have your child’s spectacles made with transition lens that changes to a darker shade under strong sunlight as this will reduce glare. Strong spectacles prescription should be avoided. In general, an under-correction of 100 degrees is advisable. If this is not well tolerated by the child then progressive or bi-focal glasses can be prescribed.
Does my child need to return for reviews?
Yes. The first review is usually a month after the initial start. If the child has no complaints regarding the therapy, the subsequent reviews can be from 3 to 6 monthly intervals depending on individual myopia progression.
What if my child's myopic power still increases?
Most children’s power will be stable and be controlled or lowered but for those who do not experience this, the doctor may advise on stepping up the frequency of therapy to more than once a week (e.g. 2 times a week) depending on the individual.
At what age do we stop the therapy?
Usually, a child is put on weekly Atropine therapy till after Primary 6 (12 years old). For Secondary 1 & 2 students (13-14 years old), one drop every two weeks should suffice. By Secondary 3 & 4, the therapy can usually be stopped. This is the general guide but it all depends on individual myopia severity, progression history, and family history of high myopia and the child’s stage of physical development.
Is it guaranteed to work?
Atropine is the only scientifically proven therapy to control or halt the progression of childhood myopia. However as with all medical therapies, there is no 100% guarantee of effectiveness in every single case but most children have responded very well to the weekly dosage regime.
Regular eye doctor reviews will determine whether the dosage should be maintained, increased or decreased to cater to each individual’s needs.