A Pocket-Sized Revolution in Eye Care

A pocket-sized device made with spare parts of phones and computers ordered online for under $200 could hold the future of eye care.

According to a recently published article in NBCNews, the device acts essentially as a retina camera with the ability to take images of the inside of an eye.

A pair of the researchers responsible for this advancement, Dr. Shizuo Mukai and Dr. Bailey Shen, are claiming that this technology can hopefully soon replace eyecare practices of late where patients are subjected to strong eye drops to dilate the eye in order for an ophthalmologist to be able to properly examine the health of the eyes. The new device will cut the eye drops from current practice and simply use infrared light focused on the back of the eye to snap an image of the entire eye without the pupil constricting.

However, before excitement takes hold that this product may soon be on the market, there is still a lot of work to be done. In fact, Dr. Mukai, an ophthalmology professor at Harvard, and Dr. Shen, an ophthalmologist with UIC College of Medicine, are making the prototype available to tech experts and doctors for further testing and design insight. By doing this, the researchers behind this new device hope to gain more sophisticated software to improve the images taken by the retina camera, which will ultimately lead to stronger diagnoses.

The most exciting aspect of this device is the possibilities it brings. For one, the prototype cost only $185, and was constructed from a combination of cellphone parts, LED lights, and pieces from a computer kit. Once a scalable model is created, prospects are high that this device could be mass produced at a low rate, making it more accessible globally as well. Aside from relieving the pain and inconvenience of eyedrops, Dr. Rahul Khurana, the clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, has hopes that this technology can be used in poorer countries where access to healthcare is not as prevalent.

Because the device doesn’t require the eye to be dilated, patients who are unable to have their eyes dilated will be able to be screened for eye health concerns that were not able to be examined before. As Dr. Shen stated in a Harvard Medical School article on the findings, “…As residents seeing patients in the hospital, there are often times when we are not allowed to dilate patients–neurosurgery patients for example.” With its convenient and portable size, Dr. Shen hopes the device can be used to cut down on the amount of time it can take to give an eye exam, especially in hospitals, stating, “…there are times when we find something abnormal in the back of the eye, but it is not practical to wheel the patient all the way over to the outpatient eye clinic just for a photograph.”

By making eyecare more accessible, the possibilities of mastering eye health throughout the world become more attainable. While this prototype is not the first to make a breakthrough on retina camera technology, it does offer a wider spectrum of vision in the lense for clearer and more precise imaging. The development of these discoveries can only grow from here, giving researchers in ophthalmology something very special to look forward to–soon, they hope, with perfect vision.