Atropine eye drops for myopia control in children
- Atropine eye drops have multiple uses in childhood eye care, from increasing eye examination accuracy to treatment for lazy eye, to managing eye inflammation.
- In primary-school aged children, atropine 1% can be used for the reasons described above, and atropine 0.01%, 0.025% or 0.05% can be used to slow myopia progression.
- Atropine eye drops 0.01%, 0.025% or 0.05% for myopia control have evidence for use in children aged 4 to 12 years at the start of treatment, and for up to three years.
In this article
Atropine eye drops can be used to test and treat various eye conditions, and in low concentrations can slow myopia progression in children from age 4.
Myopia control in children
Myopia, also known as short-sightedness or near-sightedness, causes vision to become blurred in the long distance, and the need for glasses or contact lenses to bring the eye back into focus.
In most cases, myopia starts in childhood, and then progressively increases typically up until early adulthood when it stabilizes.1 Myopia is a lifelong condition and increases risk of potentially sight threatening conditions in later life, causing the World Health Organization to classify myopia as a global health concern.2
'Myopia control' has become the increasingly adopted term to describe the use of treatments aimed to slow progression of myopia. These treatments can include spectacles, contact lenses or atropine eye drops. Myopia control is particularly important in children, because this is the stage in life when myopia is most likely to progress or worsen quickly. Taking action to control progression of myopia in children during this fast progression stage in their life will therefore likely achieve the most gains.3
What is atropine
Atropine is used in general medicine, and also as an eye medicine or eye drop. As an eye drop, atropine 1% is used to dilate (enlarge) the pupil and stop the eye’s focusing mechanism, which can be used for testing the vision of young children, treating amblyopia (lazy eye) and also for managing some eye diseases.4
The first studies using atropine eye drops to slow myopia progression in children used 1% atropine, but these had significant side effects – enlarged pupils made a child sensitive to light, and blurred their close-up vision.5
Newer studies have investigated lower concentrations of 0.01% up to 0.05%, which have minimal side effects. Atropine eye drops for myopia control are used once per day, at night time.6
For more background information on atropine uses in eye care and for myopia control, read All about atropine.
Atropine for myopia control in children
Atropine 1% concentration was first shown to work very effectively to slow myopia progression in children aged 6-12 years, who were followed for two years.5 This concentration (strength or dose) has significant side effects of increased light sensitivity and blurred near (close up) vision. Another study on 0.1% and 0.5% found these concentrations also had significant side effects.7
Atropine 0.01% to 0.05% has been shown to have minimal side effects in children who were 4 to 12 years of age at the start of treatment.6 This three year study showed that these low concentrations were safe, well tolerated and had minimal side effects.
It's important to note that children on atropine treatment for myopia control will still need spectacles or contact lenses to see clearly. Atropine does not correct blurred vision from myopia, it only works to slow myopia progression.3
How well does atropine work for myopia control
A well known study from Singapore published in 2016 compared 0.01%, 0.1% and 0.5% atropine for childhood myopia control, and found that 0.01% worked similarly to the others with far less side effects.8 This led to increasing popularity of 0.01% atropine for myopia control.
Further analysis of that data found some flaws in assuming 0.01% works best,9 and newer studies since have found that 0.01% atropine, by itself, is quite a weak treatment for myopia control.6,10
Better outcomes have been found with 0.02%, 0.025% and 0.05% atropine concentrations. These have been researched in children from age 4 and up to age 14 at the start of treatment, for 2-3 years in total.6,10
Atropine 0.02% and 0.025% have been shown to slow myopia progression by about one-third, and atropine 0.05% by about one-half, compared to children on placebo treatment.6,10
Compared to other treatments for myopia control, atropine appears to work similarly to the best spectacle, contact lens and ortho-k options.12 The ideal myopia control treatment for your child will depend on a number of factors, including their eye measurements, capabilities, activities and more.
There are many treatment options available to slow myopia progression in children. Read more in Which is the best option for myopia control?
Atropine 0.01% has been shown to be effective when combined with ortho-k contact lens wear, boosting the short-term myopia control effect in children aged 6-11 years.12 Read more in our article ortho-k for myopia control.
How do I know if atropine is working to slow myopia progression in my child
There are no myopia control treatments that can promise to stop myopia progression, but they can help to slow it down.3 Atropine treatment will be working, firstly, if your child can see clearly with their spectacles or contact lenses and are tolerating the treatment well with minimal side effects.3
Myopia progression can be measured either by measuring change to refraction prescription or change in the axial length of the eye, and compared to research data to determine success of a myopia control treatment.
How well a myopia treatment is working will depend on your child's age and other factors such as how the treatment is used. Read more in our article How do I know if myopia control is working? And for more detail on how axial eye length is measured see our article Measuring myopia progression using axial eye length.
Atropine safety in children
Atropine eye drops have been shown safe to use in children when used as prescribed.13 While atropine has potential for causing toxic effects if taken by mouth, it is greatly diluted when formulated into eye drops. Medication safety is very important - if a young child accidentally swallows a bottle of atropine eye drops this can have very serious side effects.14
The low concentrations of atropine used in myopia management have far less side effects for long term use, and have proven to be safe and effective for slowing myopia progression in children from age 4 to 14 at the start of treatment, and for up to two to three years.6,10 Amongst these lower concentrations, atropine 0.05% currently appears to be the most effective, with minimal side effects.6
As for any medication, atropine should be stored securely from children. If you do suspect your child has swallowed atropine eye drops you should immediately seek advice from the prescribing practitioner or a medical doctor.
For more detail on atropine safety, see our article All about atropine.
- Hou W, Norton TT, Hyman L, Gwiazda J; COMET Group. Axial Elongation in Myopic Children and its Association With Myopia Progression in the Correction of Myopia Evaluation Trial. Eye Contact Lens. 2018 Jul;44(4):248-259. (link)
- The impact of myopia and high myopia. Report of the Joint World Health Organization-Brien Holden Vision Institute Global Scientific Meeting on Myopia. 2015 (link)
- Gifford KL, Richdale K, Kang P, Aller TA, Lam CS, Liu YM, Michaud L, Mulder J, Orr JB, Rose KA, Saunders KJ, Seidel D, Tideman JWL, Sankaridurg P. IMI - Clinical Management Guidelines Report. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2019 Feb 28;60(3):M184-M203. (link)
- McLendon K, Preuss CV. Atropine. [Updated 2021 Sep 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: (link)
- Chua WH, Balakrishnan V, Chan YH, Tong L, Ling Y, Quah BL, Tan D. Atropine for the treatment of childhood myopia. Ophthalmology. 2006 Dec;113(12):2285-91. (link)
- Yam JC, Zhang XJ, Zhang Y, Wang YM, Tang SM, Li FF, Kam KW, Ko ST, Yip BHK, Young AL, Tham CC, Chen LJ, Pang CP. Three-Year Clinical Trial of Low-Concentration Atropine for Myopia Progression (LAMP) Study: Continued Versus Washout: Phase 3 Report. Ophthalmology. 2022 Mar;129(3):308-321. (link)
- Chia A, Chua WH, Cheung YB, Wong WL, Lingham A, Fong A, Tan D. Atropine for the treatment of childhood myopia: safety and efficacy of 0.5%, 0.1%, and 0.01% doses (Atropine for the Treatment of Myopia 2). Ophthalmology. 2012 Feb;119(2):347-54. (link)
- Chia A, Lu QS, Tan D. Five-Year Clinical Trial on Atropine for the Treatment of Myopia 2: Myopia Control with Atropine 0.01% Eyedrops. Ophthalmology. 2016 Feb;123(2):391-399. (link)
- Bullimore MA, Berntsen DA. Low-Dose Atropine for Myopia Control: Considering All the Data. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2018 Mar 1;136(3):303. (link)
- Cui C, Li X, Lyu Y, Wei L, Zhao B, Yu S, Rong J, Bai Y, Fu A. Safety and efficacy of 0.02% and 0.01% atropine on controlling myopia progression: a 2-year clinical trial. Sci Rep. 2021 Nov 15;11(1):22267. (link)
- Brennan NA, Toubouti YM, Cheng X, Bullimore MA. Efficacy in myopia control. Prog Retin Eye Res. 2021 Jul;83:100923. (link)
- Tan Q, Ng AL, Cheng GP, Woo VC, Cho P. Combined 0.01% atropine with orthokeratology in childhood myopia control (AOK) study: A 2-year randomized clinical trial. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2022 May 30:101723. (link)
- Gong Q, Janowski M, Luo M, Wei H, Chen B, Yang G, Liu L. Efficacy and Adverse Effects of Atropine in Childhood Myopia: A Meta-analysis. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2017 Jun 1;135(6):624-630. (link)
- Stellpflug SJ, Cole JB, Isaacson BA, Lintner CP, Bilden EF. Massive atropine eye drop ingestion treated with high-dose physostigmine to avoid intubation. West J Emerg Med. 2012 Feb;13(1):77-9. (link)