Are atropine drops good for your child?

Do you consider yourself to be a person who makes educated decisions about your child’s healthcare? Has your child been prescribed atropine drops to treat their amblyopia or lazy eye? You need to understand what atropine is, what it does, and what your options are. (Please never give a child atropine until you have used it yourself).

The idea behind atropine
Atropine therapy, known as penalization therapy is about using atropine to stop the eye from being able to use the focusing muscle (accommodation). Accommodation is where the lens in the eye changes shape to change where the eye is focusing. Atropine renders those muscles paralyzed, and makes the pupil larger. The effect is an eye that can’t focus and will have blurry vision.

What is atropine used for?
Some doctors use atropine to treat amblyopia (lazy eye) or use it for myopia (nearsighted) control (trying to stop a prescription from going up). For amblyopia, the idea is that by making the good eye blurry, the ‘bad’ eye will be forced to be used. It’s like patching the eye, except it’s using a pharmaceutical to make the good eye blurry. In cases of myopia control, atropine therapy is about making it so that the eyes cannot engage the focusing mechanism, so that there won’t be an adaption to the up-close work. It’s this adaptation that results in the prescription increasing (which is why there are more cases of myopia with the increased popularity of cell phones).

What are the downsides?
Many people have talked about atropine as a poison, which it is. But so are your household cleaners and other topical products. So please don’t take it orally. The downside of atropine has more to do with what it does for a persons function. Atropine will make the vision blurry, and paralyze the focusing mechanism of the eye. Reading and learning ability will be significantly compromised. Most of the time these children are in the prime stages of learning, and the atropine creates a significant barrier to performance. For any parent considering atropine for their child, I would first recommend trialing It yourself.

What are the alternatives?
Amblyopia- Vision therapy has been shown to be more effective than patching. This is because it addresses the missing function rather than just penalizing the good eye. This leads to improvements in visual acuity (20/20) as well as visual performance that can cause learning disabilities or reduced learning abilities.

Myopia control– Proper usage of bifocals, contacts, progressives or prism done in a way that reduces the stress on the eye that causes the increase in near sightedness is more effective and also allows for better academic performance.

If you’re considering using atropine to treat amblyopia or for myopia control, you will be thankful that you have looked into vision therapy and use of glasses for efficiency that treat the underlying problem and improve performance. Find an optometrist near you who has experience in vision therapy and vision training so that you can get the full picture.

 

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