CUHK
P R E S S   R E L E A S E

Chinese Version
- Chronic endocrine disorders
3 April 2001


Myopia in the Young Generation in Hong Kong:
Recent Research and Treatment


A study by The Chinese University of Hong Kong has found an alarming prevalence of myopia (short-sightedness) in secondary school students.  "Using new eye drops has raised hope to preventing the progression of myopia in children.  The Chinese University has participated in a multicentre study on the effect of this kind of new treatment," said Professor Dennis Shun-chiu Lam, Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. 

A recent eye-screening project of 4106 secondary school students, sponsored by the Action for Vision Eye Foundation, found that an average of 64 per cent of secondary school students suffered from myopia.  The figure is the worst among all countries!

55 per cent of Form 1 students screened suffered from myopia.  The highest prevalence of myopia is in Form 7, close to 81 per cent.

The study also confirmed a rising prevalence of myopia as kids grown up.  The percentage of myopia leaped from 3 per cent in pre-school children to 36 percent in primary school students and 92 percent in university students, as found in previous studies by the Chinese University.

"The exact causes of myopia is yet to be fully elucidated but both nature and nurture factors are contributing," said Professor Lam.  "The strong association between myopia and near-work has been established internationally, and prolonged use of computer could be a cause," he added.

The Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences is currently evaluating a new eye drops which is expected to prevent the progression of myopia in children.  "It suppresses the growth of the fibrous tissue of the sclera (outer coat of the eye ball), thus preventing the excessive lengthening of the eyeball, a major cause for myopia," Professor Lam explained. 

Professor Lam said similar eye drops, like Atropine, had been in use but its side effects such as pupil dilation and loss of accommodation have made it not popular.  "Atropine is a non-selective anti-muscarinic blocker that produces effect on the ciliary muscle causing loss of accommodation, on the iris tissue causing pupil dilatation and on the fibrous tissue of the sclera causing less elongation of the eye ball," Professor Lam said.  "The new eye drops is a selective agent which works mainly on the scleral fibrous tissue.

"The new eye drops, as an oral formulation, has been safely used in many countries such as Germany, Japan, England and Canada for up to 20 years as a treatment for gastric ulcers and stomach distress."  Professor Lam said.  

Professor Lam said the new eye drops had been studied extensively in laboratory and in animals with encouraging results.  "Tolerance and safety clinical trials have been performed in the States with good results.  Large-scale multi-nation study on its safety and efficacy is now underway.  In addition to centres in the US, nine centres in four Asian countries are partners of the study.

The Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences has set up a hotline on "Myopia in Young Generation".  Parents interested in learning more about myopia and possible treatments can call 2637 1343 or fax 2715 9490 or email: linachoi@cuhk.edu.hk.