Myopia (short-sightedness) causes blurred distance vision which can be treated by optical correction e.g glasses. However, it is not a benign disease and high levels of myopia carry an increased risk of potentially blinding eye diseases including retinal detachment, macular disease and glaucoma.
Low dose (0.01%) atropine eye drops (a non-specific muscarinic blocking agent commonly used to treat childhood amblyopia) had been shown to reduce the progression of childhood myopia in Singaporean children. However, there were no Australian studies on low-dose atropine treatment for myopia. An increase in the prevalence of myopia in Australia will bring with it a greater burden of ocular disease but, if the extent of myopia in the population is reduced or its progression modified by an intervention, such as is proposed in this pilot study, then the overall population risk of blinding eye disease will also be reduced.
Professor Mackey led a study in Western Australia that was the first to report on the response rates of myopic Asian and Caucasian children to low dose atropine treatment living in Australia. It is also examining any changes in physical activity, and inform guidelines for the minimisation of the long term effects of myopia versus the associated risks of encouraging outdoor activities and UV exposure.