Childhood febrile illness and the risk of myopia in UK Biobank participants

J A Guggenheim, Cathy E M Williams, UK Biobank Eye and Vision Consortium

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
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PURPOSE: Historical reports suggest febrile illness during childhood is a risk factor for myopia. The establishment of the UK Biobank provided a unique opportunity to investigate this relationship.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: We studied a sample of UK Biobank participants of White ethnicity aged 40-69 years old who underwent autorefraction (N=91 592) and were classified as myopic (≤-0.75 Dioptres (D)), highly myopic (≤-6.00 D), or non-myopic (>-0.75 D). Self-reported age at diagnosis of past medical conditions was ascertained during an interview with a nurse at a Biobank assessment centre. Logistic regression analysis was used to calculate the odds ratio (OR) for myopia or high myopia associated with a diagnosis before age 17 years of each of nine febrile illnesses, after adjusting for potential confounders (age, sex, highest educational qualification, and birth order).

RESULTS: Rubella, mumps, and pertussis were associated with myopia: rubella, OR=1.38, 95% CI: 1.03-1.85, P=0.030; mumps, OR=1.32, 95% CI: 1.07-1.64, P=0.010; and pertussis, OR=1.39, 95% CI 1.03-1.87, P=0.029. Measles, rubella, and pertussis were associated with high myopia: measles, OR=1.48, 95% CI: 1.07-2.07, P=0.019; rubella, OR=1.94, 95% CI: 1.12-3.35, P=0.017; and pertussis, OR=2.15, 95% CI: 1.24-3.71, P=0.006. The evidence did not support an interaction between education and febrile illness in explaining the above risks.

CONCLUSION: A history of childhood measles, rubella, or pertussis was associated with high myopia, whereas a history of childhood rubella, mumps, or pertussis was associated with any myopia. The reasons for these associations are unclear.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)608-614
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2016


  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Biological Specimen Banks
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Fever
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mumps
  • Myopia
  • Myopia, Degenerative
  • Refraction, Ocular
  • Risk Factors
  • Rubella
  • United Kingdom
  • Whooping Cough
  • Journal Article
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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