Devastating eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy may be detectable sooner with a new camera being developed by ophthalmologist Jean-Daniel Arbour and Photon Etc. in Canada. The camera is designed to detect changes at the metabolic level, even before anatomical changes are visible. It uses hyperspectral photography, which utilizes all wavelengths to detect more details.
Current technology uses light to see the retina in the back of the eye, and the blood vessels flowing out of the optic nerve. But the disease is already entrenched, and the damage done, by the time a an abnormal blood vessel is detectible.
Hyperspectral imaging uses all wavelengths of the spectrum. For example, examining an object using infrared finds details that standard light-based photography can miss.
Hyperspectral photography, which operates on all wavelengths, can find many more hidden details. The technology was originally developed for industrial purposes, detecting geological formations in mining. The company partnered with Dr. Arbour to develop ophthalmological applications for hyperspectral photography.
Diabetic patients are at a very high risk for retinopathy. This is when the blood vessels in the eye leak or swell. Fifty percent of diabetic sufferers will eventually get retinopathy. This damage is detected using current eye scanning technology. However, the new metabolic hyperspectral technology detects a reduction in oxygen consumption in the eye. This is a sign of impending damage. The eye doctor can intervene immediately with drug therapy to head off damage.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (also called ARMD or AMD) breaks down the macula. This is where central vision happens, which is the most important part of vision. The main symptom is a loss of central vision. By the time you notice symptoms, the disease is already underway. This disease is prevalent in the elderly population. It impairs the ability to write, read, recognize faces and drive a vehicle. An Amsler Test is a quick screening, but an annual exam from a qualified eye doctor is important. AMD may be prevented and supported by nutrition and lifestyle choices, according to a large number of studies on ARMD.
If the camera is approved for clinical usage, an annual eye exam diabetics using hyperspectral photograph may be recommended. People over age 50 with a family history or other significant risk factors for AMD (age-related macular degeneration) would also need regular screening.
Editor’s note: This new camera could help eye doctors find the problems sooner to head off serious damage. Meanwhile, see our sugar balance page for information about the retina for diabetics. Additionally, age-related macular degeneration is discussed on our macular support page.
Source: “Made-in-Montreal camera technology could help detect early signs of eye disease” by Aaron Derfel, THE GAZETTE January 31, 2014