Researchers at Rice University have designed a new smartphone-connected system called “mobileVision” that lets optometrists view the retina without using dilating drops. This device promises to avoid the inconvenience associated with dilating drops and make diagnostic eye exams easier in third-world countries. This could allow eye doctors to detect eye disease in its early stages, when treatment is most effective.
Described as a “reverse microscope,” mobileVision builds on technology used in astronomy to view stars from the earth. Patients look through an eyepiece at a picture of a red disk. The disk stabilizes when the eye is aligned correctly with the device. The pupil dilates naturally in the dark. Then, the patient pushes a button to move the disk away, revealing the camera and a light source. A short video is taken of the eye, and software creates a usable composite image of the eye.
The resulting data can be quickly and easily transmitted by the smart phone. This means the ophthalmologist could be located hundreds of miles away and could return a diagnosis on the phone.
Correctly diagnosing two major eye diseases, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy, requires dilation. Dilating eyedrops are time-consuming and can be uncomfortable for the patient. The World Health Organization (WHO) has made these two diseases a high priority in its VISION 2020 plan to eliminate preventable blindness by 2020.