Autonomic imbalance - a precursor to myopia development?

Chen, Jennifer C. (2003) Autonomic imbalance - a precursor to myopia development? PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


While prolonged nearwork is considered to be an environmental risk factor associated with myopia development, an underlying genetic susceptibility to nearwork-induced accommodative adaptation may be one possible mechanism for human myopia development. As the control of accommodation by the autonomic system may be one such genetically predetermined system, this research sought to investigate whether an anomaly of the autonomic control of accommodation may be responsible for myopia development and progression.

The emphasis of this work was determining the effect of altering the sympathetic input to the ciliary muscle on accommodation responses such as tonic accommodation and nearwork-induced accommodative adaptation in myopes and non-myopes. The first study of the thesis was based on observations of Gilmartin and Winfield (1995) which suggested that a deficit in the sympathetic inputs to the ciliary muscle may be associated with a propensity for myopia development. The effect of ß-antagonism with timolol application on accommodation characteristics was studied in different refractive error groups. Our results support the previous findings that a deficit of sympathetic facility during nearwork was not a feature of late-onset myopia. However it was found that classifying myopes according to stability of their myopia and their ethnic background was important and this allowed differentiation between accommodation responses and characteristics of the ciliary muscle autonomic inputs, with the greatest difference observed between Caucasian stable myopes and Asian progressing myopes.

Progressing myopes, particularly those with an Asian background, demonstrated enhanced susceptibility to nearwork-induced accommodative adaptation and this was suggested to result from a possible parasympathetic dominance and a relative sympathetic deficit to the ciliary muscle. In contrast, stable myopes, particularly those with an Asian background, demonstrated minimal accommodation changes following nearwork (counter-adaptation in some cases), and increased accommodative adaptation with ß-antagonism, suggesting sympathetic dominance as the possible autonomic accommodation control profile.

As ethnic background was found to be an important factor, a similar study was also conducted in a group of Hong Kong Chinese children to investigate if enhanced susceptibility to nearwork-induced changes in accommodation may explain in part the high prevalence of myopia in Hong Kong. Despite some minor differences in methodology between the two studies, the Hong Kong stable myopic children demonstrated counter-adaptive changes and greater accommodative adaptation with timolol, findings that were consistent with those of the adult Asian stable myopes. Both Asian progressing myopic children and adults also showed greater accommodative adaptation than the stable myopes and similar response profiles following ß-adrenergic antagonism. Thus a combination of genetically predetermined accommodation profiles that confer high susceptibility and extreme environmental pressures is a likely explanation for the increase in myopia over the past decades in Asian countries.

The hypothesis that a sympathetic deficit is linked to myopia was also investigated by comparing the effect of ß-stimulation with salbutamol, a ß-agonist, on accommodation with that of ß-antagonism using timolol. It was hypothesized that salbutamol would have the opposite effect of timolol, and that it would have a greater effect on subjects who demonstrated greater accommodative adaptation effects, i.e. the progressing myopes, compared to those who showed minimal changes in accommodation following nearwork. Consistent with the hypothesis, the effect of sympathetic stimulation with salbutamol application was only evident in the progressing myopes whom we hypothesized may have a parasympathetic dominance and a relative sympathetic deficit type of autonomic imbalance while it did not further enhance the rapid accommodative regression profile demonstrated by the stable myopes.

Characteristics of the convergence system and the interaction between accommodation and convergence were also investigated in the Hong Kong children. No significant differences in response AC/A ratios between the emmetropic, stable and progressing myopic children were found and it was concluded that elevated AC/A ratios were not associated with higher myopic progression rate in this sample of Hong Kong children. However, ß-adrenergic antagonism with timolol application produced a greater effect on accommodative convergence (AC) in stable myopic children who presumably have a more adequate, robust sympathetic input to the ciliary muscle, but had little effect on AC of progressing myopic children. This finding again points to the possibility that the autonomic control of the accommodation and convergence systems may be different between stable and progressing myopia.

The primary contribution of this study to the understanding of myopia development is that differences in the autonomic control of the ciliary muscle may be responsible for producing anomalous accommodation responses. This could have significant impact on retinal image quality and thus results in myopia development. This knowledge may be incorporated into computer models of accommodation and myopia development and provides scope for further investigation of the therapeutic benefits of autonomic agents for myopia control.

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ID Code: 15803
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Schmid, Katrina & Brown, Brian
Keywords: Myopia, Retinal defocus, Accommodation, Convergence, Autonomic innervation, Accommodative adaptation, Nearwork-induced transient myopia, Ciliary muscle, Sympathetic innervation, Parasympathetic innervation, Tonic accommodation, Refractive error
Department: Faculty of Health
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Jennifer C. Chen
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:49
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2016 04:39

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