For several years now, Singapore researchers have known that atropine eye drops, which are used to treat myopia, can stop the condition from getting worse, or even improve the eyesight of a lucky few.
The Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) is now embarking on a 3 1/2-year study to "determine if atropine eye drops can actually prevent or slow the onset of myopia in young children with myopic parents, just before it starts, or at the very early onset".
Myopia, more commonly known as short-sightedness, is increasingly prevalent throughout the world, especially in Singapore where 80 per cent of children are set to develop it by the age of 18, according to SNEC.
At a press conference yesterday, Associate Professor Audrey Chia, investigator for the Atropine Treatment Of Myopia 3 (Atom 3), said the new study is a collaboration between the Singapore Eye Research Institute (Seri), Singapore Clinical Research Institute (SCRI) and SNEC.
"Unlike Atom 1 and 2, which were treatment-based studies to reduce myopia progression in myopic children, Atom 3 is different as we are targeting children who have yet to develop myopia," said Dr Teoh Yee Leong, SCRI chief executive officer.
In the Atom 3 study, children will be given low-dose atropine eye drops of 0.01 per cent.
Myopia is increasingly prevalent throughout the world, especially in Singapore where 80 per cent of children are set to develop it by the age of 18, according to SNEC.
The new study taps the success of Atom 2, conducted from 2005 to 2012, which showed that low-dose atropine eye drops can slow down myopia progression by 50 per cent to 60 per cent, with no side effects such as near-blur or glare noted with the higher dose of 1 per cent.
Chia Shernin, 10, who participated in Atom 2, said: "The eye drops are good as they have stopped my eyesight from worsening. It is not painful at all."
Shernin's mother, Madam Jessica Seah Yen Leng, 46, said: "The eye drops are not a miracle drug. Good eye habits are still important. For example, I am strict with my children reading in poor light conditions."
She also said it will be helpful if schools conduct more hands-on activities for children, so that they do not spend too much time on books.
Parents who are interested in enrolling their child in the Atom 3 study may contact Seri on 6322-4500 or 6322-4501, or leave their contact details at firstname.lastname@example.org
The child must be between five and nine years of age, with at least one parent with myopia, as the study is targeting children with a higher risk of myopia.
They must not have sought treatment for myopia prior to this study.