About Us

We are the Genetics and Epidemiology research team based at the Lions Eye Institute in Nedlands in Western Australia. Our research team is involved in the study of the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to eye diseases and is led by Professor David Mackey. Professor Mackey has spent 20 years studying the genetics of the optic nerve and has initiated and been involved in many studies that have led to the better understanding of optic neuropathies such as glaucoma.  Please click on the link https://www.lei.org.au/research/genetics-and-epidemiology/ for more information on research studies that Professor Mackey has been involved in.

Throughout Professor Mackey's work, he became interested in the causes of short-sightedness and in 2012 he instigated The Western Australian Eye Protection Study. Since then, we have had over 700 Western Australians take part in our study. We want the research to continue for at least five years and extend the number of participants so we can be sure the study is comprehensive and fully represents the broad community.



The Relationship between Myopia and Sun Exposure

Our aim is to investigate the effects of sun exposure and use of eye protection amongst those who are physically active outdoors. In particular, we are looking at the causes of myopia, also known as short-sightedness. Short-sightedness is a refractive error that affects more than 20% of the Western Australian population. Although it is commonly corrected with glasses or contact lenses, high myopia can lead to other eye diseases such as retinal detachment and even irreversible blindness from eye diseases such as glaucoma.

Myopia is a complex eye disease where multiple genes interact in combination with environmental factors. Time spent outdoors in childhood has been found to be protective against myopia. Therefore, one suggestion to reduce myopia rates is to increase time spent outdoors. 

However, in Australia, it is not so easy to ask people to increase their time spents outdoors when 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnised with skin cancer before the age of 70. Too much sun exposure can also cause an eye disease called pterygium. A ptergium is a non-cancerous fleshy tissue that grows on the white part of the eye . If this growth progresses over the iris, it can affect vision.

Our research aims to find the optimal balance of sun exposure- enough sun exposure to reduce your chance of developing myopia while also reducing your risk of skin cancer and sun-related eye disease.




Number of Participants in WAEPS


Current Participants

*Please note that this information does not display all the types of sports and outdoor activities that our participants are part of, but it demonstrates the most popular sports for our research.

We have currently had 708 people from around Western Australia participate in our research between the ages of 14-90!

As part of our research we have targeted swimming groups, rowing groups, triathlon athletes and surf-lifesavers. However, we welcome many different types of outdoor sporting groups such as sailors, windsurfers, cricket players, tennis players and so on. As you can see, we have already seen a large number of outdoor swimmers.

Now we would now like to focus on all the other sports listed in our graph such as rowers, sailors, cricket players, tennis players, surfers and surf-lifesavers. 

Our goal is to reach 200 people in each sports group. We will keep updating this graph as we see new people, so, if you take part in any of these sports and would like to help us reach our target, please do not hesitate to contact us on (08) 9381 0707 or email eyesports@lei.org.au for more information! You can also click on Contact Us to reach us.

Don't forget, your participation in our research involves just 1.5 hours of your time where you receive a FREE comprehensive eye examination a complete a questionnaire on your general eye health and time spent outdoors!




Myopia Rates in our Current Participants


These are the myopia rates in our current participants based on their most frequent sport or outdoor activity. 

We would be very happy to see more people who participate in each of these sports to further analyse the levels of myopia in people who participate in outdoor sporting activities! smiley


Early Signs of Sun Damage: Conjunctival Ultra-Violet Autofluorescence (CUVAF)



As part of the eye examinations that we complete in our research, we look at the front surface of your eye to detect early signs of sun damage. To do this, we use a unique camera system that we developed in collaboration with researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), which allows us to detect early signs of sun exposure on the white part of the eye fluorescence under ultraviolet light.

The graph above labelled CUVAF describes 4 levels of early sun damage in our current participants- None, Mild, Moderate and Severe.

Although this is a benign condition, we are studying its association with pterygium and other sun-related eye diseases. To do this we need your help! We need to examine a large number of people from a variety of outdoor sporting backgrounds. This will enable us to give you accurate information about how and when to protect your eyes from the sun.


Recent Updates


Research Day- Saturday 18th April 2015

Just a reminder to let you all know of our next research day Saturday 18th April!

If you would like a free comprehensive eye examination and the chance to help out with our research, please do not hesitate to contact Lisa on 9381 0707 to book an appointment.

Participation involves coming to the Lions Eye Institute in Nedllands for a comprehensive eye examination that takes approximtely 1.5 hours of your time.

We look forward to hearing from you soon!


Upcoming Research Day- Saturday 28th February


Have you ever wondered how the sun is affecting your eyes? We are investigating the effects of sun exposure on eye health.

We are inviting anyone over the age of 12 years who is active outdoors to participate in our research. Our next research day is Saturday 28th February.

Participation involves coming to the Lions Eye Institute in Nedlands where you have the opportunity to have a FREE comprehensive eye examination. We also ask you to fill out a questionnaire on your time spent outdoors and on your general eye health. 

For more information on how to book an appointment,...



A big THANK YOU to all of those who participated in our last research day on December 6th :)

We are now holding our first research day of 2015 on Saturday 31st January. We have appointments from as early as 10.15am.

If you are regularly physically active outdoors and would like a FREE comprehensive eye examination, please contact Lisa or Carole on 9381 0707 or email eyesports@lei.org.au to book an appointment. 

We look forward to hearing from you all soon! :)