By: Dr. Keith Gordon, Vice-President, Research, CNIB
If you are nearsighted, did you ever wonder whether your children would also have to wear eyeglasses for their nearsightedness? For many years we have known that myopia (nearsightedness) runs in families but now, for the first time, genes have been insolated that clearly demonstrate the reason why this may be the case.
A group of researchers at the University of London, England, have just announced the isolation of 24 genes directly associated with myopia. Their results, reported in the journal Nature Genetics, in fact showed that people with some of these genes had a risk of developing myopia that was 10 times as high as people without the gene. The genes give a clue as to what triggers a person to have myopia and may lead to treatment or prevention regimens in the future. The newly discovered genes were in some way or another associated with the growth or development of the eye.
Myopia usually develops as a child grows and occurs when the eye grows too long, causing incoming light to focus in front of the retina. The preferred focal point is right on the retina. Eyeglasses or contact lenses are used to refocus the light right onto the retina. It is estimated that 30 percent of Caucasians and up to 80 percent of East Asians are affected by myopia.
Myopia is more than an inconvenience. People with myopia are at greater risk of developing other eye conditions such as glaucoma or retinal detachment. This discovery means that someday there may be a treatment for the disorder that will enable people with myopia both to do away with their eyeglasses or contact lenses while at the same time minimizing their risk for other eye disorders.