Australia's first genetic eye disease clinic opens

The first Australian genetic testing clinic focused on patients with hereditary eye conditions has opened in Melbourne.


Opening the new Ocular Genetics Service – a partnership between the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and the Royal Melbourne Hospital - Health minister Jenny Mikakos said, “This new service is a game-changer for people with hereditary eye conditions. Thanks to cutting-edge genetic testing, patients now get a clearer and quicker diagnosis of their condition.”


Based at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, the fortnightly clinic is a one-stop-shop for patients who have an inherited eye condition such as albinism, colour-blindness, corneal dystrophies or glaucoma, or are at risk of passing on that condition due to a family history.


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


Linda Nancarrow, who has autosomal dominant cone dystrophy, 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 alongside a specialist ophthalmologist. This ensures 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.” 


Ophthalmologist Dr Jonathan Ruddle from The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital said he was excited about the progress already being made at the clinic to provide care for patients with hereditary eye conditions. “The clinic model involves both pre- and post-clinic discussions to ensure the most comprehensive, accurate and appropriate information is obtained and used to empower patients,” Dr Ruddle said.

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