Leicester team awarded prestigious prize from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists

Image credit: Royal College of Ophthalmologists

A team of specialist eye doctors at the University of Leicester have received a national award for their work, which will improve diagnosis and management for children with a rare eye disorder.

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists has awarded the Ulverscroft David Owen Prize to Dr Sohaib Rufai, NIHR Doctoral Fellow in Ophthalmology, and his colleagues at the University of Leicester Ulverscroft Eye Unit. Dr Rufai’s team were the first in the world to use handheld technology to successfully predict the future vision of young children who have a complex eye disorder called nystagmus.

The condition, which can impact quality of vision and life, affects 2.4 per 1000 children. Also known as “dancing eyes”, it occurs when there is a miscommunication between the eye and brain. This causes involuntary eye movements and can be associated with impaired vision. 

The Leicester team used a child-friendly 3D eye scanner, known as handheld OCT, to examine the eye in amazingly high resolution, without the need for eye drops. They used handheld OCT to examine the fovea, the central part of the retina responsible for fine vision. They found that grading the underdevelopment of the fovea could then help to predict the child’s future vision once they are old enough to read. The study found that handheld OCT can help with diagnosis, prognosis, counselling families and guiding clinical management in children with nystagmus.

Dr Sohaib Rufai and his colleagues at the University of Leicester Ulverscroft Eye Unit.

The Ulverscroft David Owen prize is a prestigious award for the best published paper in paediatric ophthalmology research over the last three years. Upon receiving the award, Dr Rufai said:

“It is a tremendous honour to receive this award on behalf of my team. I’m grateful to my mentors and colleagues at Leicester: Professor Irene Gottlob, Dr Mervyn Thomas and Dr Frank Proudlock. I am also grateful to co-authors Dr Ravi Purohit (Oxford), Dr Catey Bunce (Royal Marsden, London) and Dr Helena Lee (Southampton). We dedicate this prize to the wonderful children and families who supported this research.”

The ground-breaking study has been published in Ophthalmology – the top clinical journal in the field.