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Prevalence of early onset myopia among children is increasing at an alarming rate

Dr Jessica Mountford with patient Jessica, who has myopia

Dr Antony Clark examining Jessica’s eyes at a recent checkup

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Jessica Mountford, Brian King Fellow and Head of the Functional Molecular Vision Group, along with paediatric ophthalmologist, Dr Antony Clark at the Lions Eye Institute, are investigating the link between both genetic and environmental risk factors associated with childhood early onset myopia (short-sightedness).

Fastest rise in children as young as six years old

An estimated 23,000 children in Western Australia suffer from myopia, a disease that is rapidly rising globally and if left untreated, can progress to high myopia. Unfortunately, the fastest rise in prevalence is occurring among school children as young as six years of age. Left untreated, early onset myopia can progress to high myopia and contribute to the development of other serious visual disorders such as retinal detachment, retinal atrophy, myopic maculopathy, glaucoma, cataract and ultimately blindness. Dr Mountford and Dr Clark’s research aims to contribute to developing greater prevention strategies, screening for at-risk individuals and the development of personalised treatment. This research includes studying early onset myopia using zebrafish models of refractive error and studying the genetics of Western Australian children diagnosed with myopia.

Factors causing myopia

Several contributors, both genetic and environmental, have been associated with the development of early onset myopia. Genome wide association studies (GWAS) have identified in excess of 100 genes and over 300 genetic mutations that are associated with the condition, indicating that myopia is a complex disease involving many different genetic variants. In addition, environmental factors such as lack of exposure to natural light environments, near work (reading) and education are also acknowledged risk factors in the development of myopia.

Philanthropic supporters

Channel 7 Telethon Trust, Perpetual, Stan Perron Charitable Foundation, Lions Save-Sight Foundation WA Inc and the Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia support Dr Mountford’s research into early onset myopia.

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