Glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, childhood vision loss, and short-sightedness are highlighted as target study areas.

Prevention of conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma, as well as better integration of primary and secondary care, have been identified by a new study as priorities for UK eyecare research for the next five years.

A new study published in the journal Eye surveyed 2,240 healthcare professionals, patients, carers, researchers and charity support workers to map out the research priorities for ophthalmology in the UK.

Carried out by the UK Clinical Eye Research Strategy (CERS), a group of leading researchers in the field led by Professor Rupert Bourne of Cambridge University Hospital and Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), the study is a comprehensive update to the previous James Lind Alliance (JLA) Sight and Vision Loss Priority Setting Partnership (SVLPSP)'s research priorities for ophthalmology, carried out in 2013.

Ophthalmology is one of the leading areas for novel treatments and in the past few decades we have seen the introduction of novel diagnostic and treatment modalities that have markedly improved outcomes in people with eye diseases. Despite active research within ophthalmology, there are still unanswered questions about prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of eye conditions and sight loss, half of which is presumed avoidable – although the UK lacks nationally representative population-based prevalence data.

The study summarises that several areas of eyecare should be prioritised for research in order to advance treatment and prevention in the UK. These include:

  • A focus on prevention strategies for cataract;
  • Advancements in microbial keratitis treatment of the cornea;
  • Enhanced integration of ophthalmic primary and secondary care;
  • Development and/or progression research for refractive error;
  • Early detection initiatives for childhood eyecare diseases;
  • Glaucoma: Improved treatment modalities for glaucoma;
  • Neuro-ophthalmology: Holistic approach to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment;
  • Innovative strategies for dry age-related macular degeneration;
  • Exploration of new treatments for inflammatory diseases such as uveitis.

Lead author Rupert Bourne, Professor of Ophthalmology, said: “The results of this survey provide a crucial refresh of the most important research questions, a decade after the initial Priority Setting Partnership. This study sets the stage for focused research endeavours within ophthalmology, a specialty that faces substantial challenges but which remains vastly underfunded given the profound burden of eye diseases.”