Professor Ingrid Winship Director of Genomic Medicine, RMH
20 May 2019
News Category: 
Media releases

A new clinic to help treat patients with genetic eye conditions has opened at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital as a partnership between The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and The Royal Melbourne Hospital.

This clinic is the first of its kind in Australia and provides care for patients who have an inherited eye condition, are at risk of inheriting or passing on an eye condition or have a genetic disease that affects their eyes.

Many common eye diseases such as glaucoma have a genetic component. Inherited retinal degeneration is the most common cause of blindness in working age adults. This can impact on quality of life, vision loss, and family planning.

The clinic provides a ‘one stop shop’ for Victorian families with these conditions, offering world class diagnostics, genetic testing, advice and a treatment, and is staffed by ophthalmologists, clinical geneticist, orthoptists and genetic counsellors working as a team.

Patient Linda Nancarrow has a genetic eye disease called Autosomal Dominant Cone Dystrophy and was one of the first patients to be seen at the new eye clinic. The condition runs in her family, and she noticed her vision deteriorating from when she was a teenager.

“My condition makes day to day activities, such as getting around, difficult. I feel frustrated, and isolated sometimes, and the decision to have children, knowing they could inherit the condition, was incredibly difficult”.

“In my mind, the stand-out feature of the clinic is having a genetic counsellor working along-side a specialist ophthalmologist. This ensures that families not only obtain a detailed and accurate understanding of the implications of genetic test results, but also receive the essential emotional support, and guidance necessary at such a difficult time.”

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos officially opens the clinic

“It is my wish that one day I will be able to read an article explaining that researchers have the ability to eliminate the trait that causes genetic eye disease,” Ms Nancarrow said.

Ophthalmologist Dr Jonathan Ruddle from The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital is looking forward to that day too and is excited about the progress already being made at the clinic to provide care for patients with hereditary eye conditions.

“The clinic model that has been developed involves both pre and post clinic discussions to ensure that the most comprehensive, accurate and appropriate information is obtained and used to empower patients,” Dr Ruddle said.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Professor Ingrid Winship Director of Genomic Medicine, said the partnership between the two health services is a critical factor in the success of the clinic.

“This service is a close collaboration with the Eye and Ear and The Royal Melbourne Hospital, and a great example of a collaborative partnership approach by health services,” Professor Winship said.

“The key for the two organisations is to address specific medical needs of patients who have genetic eye disease and to protect their vision and help plan for their future.”

The clinic will run fortnightly at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.