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New WA children’s clinic to revolutionise diabetic eye treatment

A new diabetic eye clinic for children in Western Australia, which opened last month, is part of the Lions Eye Institute’s first major clinical-research platform for children’s eye health.

The clinic is a collaboration between LEI and Perth Children’s Hospital (PCH), forming part of the new Perron Paediatric Retinopathy Initiative, supported by the Stan Perron Charitable Foundation.

The initiative is spearheaded by the LEI’s Professor Dao-Yi Yu, an internationally renowned expert – who has received nearly 30 years of continuous NHMRC research funding – in the field of retinal vascular diseases.

It includes the new clinic and a significant research project that will facilitate the development of new therapies to reverse sight-threatening complications due to diabetic retinopathy.

Based at the LEI in Nedlands, the clinic accepts referrals from PCH’s Endocrinology and Diabetes, and Ophthalmology departments. They are then seen by LEI ophthalmologists Associate Professor Chandra Balaratnasingam and Dr Antony Clark who are conducting the screening, assessment and treatment of children for juvenile diabetic retinopathy complications.

Balaratnasingam said screening children at regular intervals will enable clinicians to detect the onset of complications at the earliest stages, prior to irreversible structural and functional injury.

“Detecting the earliest changes to the retinal circulation due to diabetic retinopathy is the key to avoiding irreversible vision loss in children. Understanding changes to the retina through robust screening programs also provides an opportunity to develop better diagnostic techniques and new treatments to prevent disease progression,” he said.

Professor Bill Morgan, managing director of LEI, said the Perron Paediatric Retinopathy Initiative represented the institute’s first major clinical-research platform for children’s eye health.

“The program will build on the work of our specialist paediatric clinician, Dr Antony Clark, as well as the ground-breaking work our research team has undertaken in this field for more than 30 years,” he said.

“Our retinal imaging capability through Optical Coherence Tomography Angiography is unparalleled, and our research group has been an international pioneer in much of the work in this field.”

PCH Department of Endocrinology and Diabetes head Professor Elizabeth Davis said type 1 and type 2 diabetes were among the most common causes of severe and irreversible vision loss in Australian children.

Davis warned the incidence of type 1 diabetes is projected to rise at an average rate of almost 3% per year.

“Australia has a relatively high rate of type 1 diabetes, and on average seven new cases are diagnosed every day. Type 1 diabetes is most commonly diagnosed in 10 to 14-year-olds, with a rate in this age group that is 3.6 times higher than in people aged over 25,” she said.

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