Fight for Sight and Sparks partner to fund childhood blindness research

24 November 16

written by:

Ade Deane-Pratt

(more articles)

Researchers at the University of Bath are developing a test for a complication of childhood arthritis that affects the eye

Smiling grandfather looks down at a baby smiling back up at him.

Fight for Sight is in partnership with Sparks - the children’s medical research charity. We are co-funding a new study to identify children at risk of a sight-threatening complication of childhood arthritis.

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is a common long-term condition that affects 1 in 1000 children worldwide. Around 1 in 3 children with JIA will eventually develop chronic inflammation within the middle part of the eye (uveitis) as a result.

Serious complications

JIA uveitis is often symptom-free but, if undiagnosed and untreated, can lead to serious complications such as cataract, glaucoma, amblyopia and macular oedema. It’s a major cause of sight loss or blindness in affected children.

Professor Neil McHugh is leading the research team at the University of Bath. The aim is to develop a blood test that could predict which children with JIA will go on to develop uveitis.

“We will investigate a cohort of juvenile idiopathic arthritis patients for a biomarker that is specific for JIA and associated uveitis, incorporating approaches that we have used successfully in other childhood conditions,” said Professor McHugh. “A specific test would allow more targeted ophthalmological screening, leading to early treatment and a consequent reduction in associated visual loss.”

A fantastic opportunity

Dr Dolores M Conroy is Director of Research at Fight for Sight. She said:

“Uveitis associated with juvenile idiopathic arthritis is currently diagnosed in the UK by screening each child with JIA every few months for up to 8 years. This is highly inconvenient for families and schools as well as costly for the NHS. We are delighted to partner with Sparks to help prevent this significant cause of childhood blindness, as well as conserving precious time and resources.”

Dr Julia Ambler, Director of Medical Research at Sparks said:

“Being able to predict which children with JIA are at greatest risk of developing uveitis would be of great benefit to these children, their families and also the NHS. The partnership between Sparks and Fight for Sight represents a fantastic opportunity to help prevent blindness in children with JIA.”

Identifying children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis at risk of uveitis

2 January 17 - 1 January 18

Aiming to prevent a common cause of childhood blindness

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