The Malta Eye Study

Determining prevalence
of Eye Disease 

The aim of this Epidemiology Study is to determine the prevalence of Visual Impairment and Eye Disease in Malta & Gozo. To date there is no reliable data available on blindness and common eye diseases such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

The research team would therefore set out to determine the prevalence of common eye disorders in Malta. They would also be looking at prevalence of refractive errors, such as myopia (short sighted) and hypermetropia (long-sighted).

This study is designed as a population-based, cross-sectional study using a weighted stratified random sample, stratified on age, gender and region, drawn from a population register. The researchers aim to perform eye tests on around 2000 randomly selected subjects (1% of population over 40yrs) and collect saliva/blood for DNA analysis on all these subjects.

The need for accurate data must be recognised in order to inform strategies to address the overburdened public eye care system. Knowing the prevalence of disorders such as Age Related Macular Degeneration and cataracts would help plan Public Health Care; setting up efficient screening strategies, what projected financial costs would be needed, how many new doctors to manage eye diseases, can be outsourced to Primary Care Centres, etc.

The primary objective is to determine the age- and sex-specific prevalence of presenting blindness and visual impairment in adults aged between 40 and 80 years, and the attributable cause. Prevalence of visual impairment, blindness, cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration constitute the study’s primary outcome variables.

The secondary objectives are to estimate the burden of eye diseases and associated risk factors in the population aged 40-80 years, to investigate the effectiveness of eye care services, including the cataract surgical coverage and cataract surgical rate. To model the cost-effectiveness of interventions to reduce the burden of avoidable vision loss.

The third objective is to establish a biorepository of DNA samples extracted from the blood/saliva of fully phenotyped, consenting adults to enable future genome-wide association studies of ocular disease. This will allow the research team to investigate the genetic variation of eye disease in the Maltese population.

€ 132,000 towards research in eye disease

The Malta Community Chest Fund (MCCF) Foundation and the Research and Innovation Development Trust of the University of Malta signed an agreement which will finance the Malta Eye Study. The MCCF Foundation will donate €132,000 towards this project.

‘This project will be very useful from a research aspect, to determine whether the Maltese are more prone to developing certain diseases and whether this is genetic or due to environmental factors which could possibly be changed to reduce the incidence of certain diseases. It will also, most certainly, be of crucial importance for Public Health Care on our Islands.’

Mr Francis Carbonaro, ophthalmic surgeon and lead researcher of the Malta Eye Project