New eye drops can slow down nearsightedness in kids

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The Problem of Myopia

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a common vision problem that begins in childhood and worsens into the teenage years before stabilizing in most individuals.

Not only does it require lifelong vision correction, it also increases the risk of retinal detachment, macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma in later life.

Corrective lenses, while addressing symptoms, do not prevent the progression of myopia.

The CHAMP Trial: A Promising Approach

In a recent 3-year study, researchers discovered that a daily drop in each eye of a low dose of atropine, a drug used to dilate pupils, could slow down the progression of nearsightedness in children aged 6 to 10 years.

The drug inhibited changes in eyeglass prescription and restricted elongation of the eye, a precursor to myopia.

“The idea of keeping eyeballs smaller isn’t just so people’s glasses are thinner—it would also be so that in their 70s they don’t suffer visual impairment,” explained lead study author Karla Zadnik, professor and dean of the College of Optometry at The Ohio State University.

The results of the Childhood Atropine for Myopia Progression (CHAMP) trial were published in JAMA Ophthalmology on June 1, 2023.

Global Prevalence of Myopia

Approximately one in three adults worldwide is nearsighted, with global prevalence predicted to rise to 50% by 2050.

Although one federally approved contact lens can slow the progression of myopia, there are currently no approved pharmaceutical products to treat this condition in the United States or Europe.

Methodology and Findings of the CHAMP Trial

This double-masked, randomized phase 3 trial assessed the safety and efficacy of two low-dose solutions, with atropine concentrations of either .01% or .02%, versus placebo.

The study involved one daily drop per eye at bedtime for each of the 489 children aged 6 to 10 assessed for the drug’s effectiveness.

The most significant improvements, compared to placebo, were found with the solution containing .01% of atropine.

The .02% atropine formulation also slowed the progression of myopia more than the placebo, although the results were less consistent.

“The .01% story is clearer and more obvious in terms of significantly slowing both the growth of the eye as well as then resulting in a lower glasses prescription,” Zadnik noted.

Safety and Tolerability

Both low-dose formulations were safe and well tolerated in a larger sample of 573 participants that also included children as young as 3 and up to age 16.

The most common side effects included sensitivity to light, allergic conjunctivitis, eye irritation, dilated pupils, and blurred vision, although these were reported infrequently.

Outlook: A Potential Game-Changer

The CHAMP trial represents a significant step toward potentially slowing down the progression of myopia in children.

It also sets the stage for future investigations and treatments that could help millions of children destined to become myopic.

If you care about eye health, please read studies about how to protect your eyes from glaucoma, and 7 habits that help prevent vision loss in older people.

For more information about eye health, please see recent studies about how to protect your eyes from diabetes, and results showing that vitamin B3 may help treat common blinding eye disease.

The study was published in JAMA Ophthalmology.

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