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New proof nearsightedness

The largest genetic study ever on nearsightedness has been published in the leading journal Nature Genetics on Tuesday, 29 May. In the study, led by Erasmus MC, researchers identified 161 genetic factors associated with glasses prescriptions and myopia.

brilThe factors found play a role in all the retina’s cell types, and perform various functions within the eye, of which the most important was the detection and processing of light. This is molecular confirmation of what had previously been shown by epidemiological studies: light, or rather the lack of it, is an important trigger for the development of nearsightedness.

A person who is nearsighted has an elongated eyeball, which means that the light focuses in front of, instead of on, the retina. This causes distant objects to appear blurry. Eyeglasses, contact lenses, or a surgical intervention can correct the vision, but these methods will not prevent the retina becoming thinner.

Ophthalmic problems
Myopia has become increasingly common over the past years. This trend is clearly visible not only in Asia, but also in Europe: Nearsightedness now affects 50% of those in their twenties. First author and researcher Milly Tedja says “This is particularly alarming for high prescription glasses wearers as it is they who are at higher risk of ophthalmic problems. We expect myopia to become the main cause of blindness in the future.”

Erasmus MC's Caroline Klaver, research leader, epidemiologist, and ophthalmologist is very excited about the discovery: “This study provides genetic proof that light processing in the eye is important for myopia. Light affects the way in which the inner layer of the eye communicates with the outermost layer to enable the eye to grow during childhood.

Erasmus MC’s Generation R population study had already shown that nearsighted children spend less time playing outside. This is why we recommend that parents get their children to alternate close-up work with being outside for at least two hours a day.”

Read for more information the press release.

Date published: 30 May 2018.

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