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Portable Device for Eye Exams

Portable Device for Eye Exams

A new handheld device makes eye exams accessible for billions of people who need it most.

Portable Device for Eye Exams

Friday, October 21, 2016 - 11:00

Jason Socrates Bardi, Editor

(Inside Science) -- According to the World Health Organization there are over 153 million people who are visually impaired. The problem is actually getting an eye prescription. An eye prescription is really a lengthy process that is done manually, and an optometrist must do it.

Susana Marcos, Professor of Research at the Institute of Optics (CSIC) says that in western countries there is one optometrist for every 5,000 people. In rural India there’s one optometrist for every 250,000 people. Handling large populations requires using something that is fast and something that can be operated by a non-specialist.

Wavefront aberrometers have proven in labs and in clinics to be very accurate in obtaining a prescription. However, these aberrometers are generally both expensive and large, and therefore are not very well suited for rural populations and developing countries.

In collaboration with a group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Marcos helped convert these large instruments from the lab into a small unit. The first units are being manufactured in labs in Madara, India, at very low-cost, are hand-held, and can be built for a fraction of the cost of lab aberrometers.

It’s easy to operate. Non-optometrists are using it because it doesn’t require any prior skill, and it can give patients a prescription in seconds. Clinical studies have shown that the device can give accurate prescriptions similar to those received from standard optometrist visits.

Patients have shown to have 20/20 vision when relying on eye prescriptions from the device. So, it’s a very accurate way to receive prescriptions for glasses.

The device will not replace an optometrist, but might help optometrists in clinics in developing countries for initial prescriptions or to speed up their practice serving patients.

The device is now going to eye centers and vision clinics out in the field, and is getting into the lives of people who will benefit from these eye prescriptions and receive glasses.

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Jason Socrates Bardi is the News Director of the American Institute of Physics and a longtime science writer.