Schools all around South Florida are upgrading their technology and moving classrooms into the 21st century. But with the installation of new state-of-the-art equipment to enhance learning, we may be putting increased strain on our children’s eyes.
According to a new survey by the American Optometric Association, parents have concerns about the effects of evolving technology. Fifty-three percent of respondents with children 18 or younger believe viewing digital screens may be harmful to a child’s vision or eyes. Twenty-nine percent of parents feel very concerned that their child may damage their eyes due to prolonged use of computers or hand-held electronic devices.
Students can help relieve eye strain from a computer or close device by practicing the 20-20-20 rule. That is for every 20 minutes of near work, take a 20-second break and view something at least 20 feet away.
The eyes focus like any other muscle, and studies show that people need to rest their eyes to keep them relaxed, so staring off into the distance helps the eyes from locking into a close-up position.
Smartboards are interactive white boards replacing chalkboards of the past. And while this enhanced technology is ushering in 21st century learning, these new digital screens offer less contrast and force too many kids to squint just to see their daily assignments. Toward the end of the last school year, I noticed a trend – an increase in students complaining of seeing worse in classes that have this new technology.
No matter what device your child’s school may be using, optimal vision is a must for optimal learning. And good eye care starts with a yearly comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist, especially in school-aged children.
Smartphones, and the iPhone in particular, are changing the way we do everything. From helping to diagnose breast cancer to communicating with those unable to speak, this technology has led to breakthroughs in many areas. Now the iPhone is being developed to provide basic eye care to third-world and indigent populations.
The first development from MIT allowed the iPhone to measure eyeglass prescriptions – an extremely portable and relatively inexpensive technology.
The device, called Netra, is a $2 clip-on eyepiece that goes over the iPhone screen. The user looks through this eye piece to interactively align a displayed pattern by clicking the buttons. The number of clicks required to bring the patterns into alignment indicates the eyeglass prescription.
Cataracts are the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide – and the team at MIT has developed another low-cost add-on for the iPhone to detect cataracts in a matter of minutes. Normally, cataracts are diagnosed by a specially trained eye doctor using an expensive microscope called a slit-lamp.
This new ‘radar’ for the human eye, named Catra, is inexpensive, and clips onto a smartphone and sends a light into the eye. The patient reports changes they see in the light and the software computes the level of cataracts.
Cataracts are surgically removed when they cause a decrease in vision to the 20/40 level.
These developments at MIT have the ability to change worldwide eye care for the better. Enabling outreach organizations to diagnose eye conditions with less expensive equipment will ultimately result in better standard of care worldwide.
In 2005, Tanya Vlach tragically lost one of her eyes in a car accident, now she wants to replace her prosthetic eye with a digital video camera. And if Tanya achieves her ‘vision,’ her new eye will be full of awesome little gizmos and gadgets.
Vlach turned to Kickstarter for funding to install a unique, waterproof in-eye camera -ideally capable of transmitting 720p HD video wirelessly to a mobile phone, zooming and even snapping still shots using a blink-activated sensor. Some other features she’s dreaming of include facial recognition, a dilating pupil that changes based on light, infrared and geotagging, just to name a few.
After Vlach lost her left eye, she has been blogging about her experiences and following all the technology that has developed to possibly regain vision. After reading her posts and letter to Kickstarter asking for donations, it’s obvious that Tanya has done a lot of research over the past six years. To ‘see’ someone that has lost half of their vision not give up and instead figure out a completely different solution is quite impressive.
She needs $15,000 by August 3rd to reach her funding goal and obtain an engineer to begin development. Donations of less than $5,000 will be rewarded with a variety of small-ticket items, while a pledge greater than that amount will net the donor their very own “souvenir eye camera.”
This is a great example of someone who understands the value of sight- a sense that we can too easily take for granted. But once taken away, people go to extraordinary lengths to regain their vision.
Bionic Vision Australia (BVA), an Australian research group, is getting close to implanting a microchip into a human retina and creating the first bionic eye.
Associate Professor Gregg Suaning, of the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering and a project leader said the new, 98-channel microchip, now undergoing preliminary lab testing, was a major step towards the goal of a functional bionic eye. He went on to say:
This is a remarkable new microchip that has brought an Australian retinal implant much closer to reality.
At only five square millimetres, the device is tiny but represents a significant advance in nerve stimulation technology. The design team incorporated never-before attempted features with this design and they absolutely nailed every aspect. The result is mind boggling.
The advanced prototype of this new bionic eye uses a pair of glasses with a camera that wirelessly transfers data to the microchip implanted in the retina and stimulating the nerves needed for vision.
The first human trials will begin in 2013.
In this digital age, computers are relied on more and more for medical decision making. Often, doctors have to look at and share digital images to help in diagnosis and treatment of many conditions. This has traditionally been done at computer workstations, but a team of researchers from Pittsburg School of Medicine wondered whether handheld devices like the iPhone would work equally well.
In the study, Ophthalmologists evaluated aspects of diabetic retinopathy, a potentially blinding disease, by reviewing both the standard computer monitor and iPhone images for 55 patients. The doctors then made recommendations for follow up treatment.
“There were no significant differences between evaluations and recommendations using the two systems, and the doctors rated the iPhone images as excellent,” said Dr. Michael J. Pokabla. “We conclude that mobile devices like the iPhone can be used to evaluate ophthalmic images,” he added.
Videoconferencing is another way technology is changing medicine, by bringing experts to emergency rooms and to remote medical centers
“Videoconferencing is a sustainable, effective way of providing prompt eye management advice to rural emergency doctors,” Dr. Christolyn Raj said
. “Although it can never replace face to face clinical care, it is a useful tool to have at one’s fingertips and its use will undoubtedly increase in coming years,” she added.
This information is brought to you by Clarin Eye Care Center. Please call or contact our office for more information.
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