New Hand-held Device Detects Eye Diseases

Handheld OCT based device developed by MIT researchers can detect retinal diseases

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Big, bulky equipment can make vision screenings a hassle for both patients and physicians but a new technology may make these screenings much easier.

In a recent study, researchers developed a hand-held, camcorder-like device that can scan the entire retina and detect eye diseases that could lead to vision loss.

The study authors noted that having regular screenings are important to detect eye diseases and hopefully avoid vision loss.

"Get your eyes checked regularly by an eye doctor."

This study was led by James G. Fujimoto in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Research Laboratory of Electronics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The research team developed a hand held device that can scan the entire retina. The device can be used to detect retinal diseases, like diabetic retinopathy that could lead to vision loss and blindness.

The handheld device uses a technique known as optical coherence tomography (OCT). OCT sends beams of a special kind of light into the eye and onto the retina. The device then takes multiple three-dimensional images of the eye allowing physicians to examine it.

Typical instruments that use OCT are bulky in size and must be placed on a table. These researchers developed the first portable OCT device using very small mirrors to send the beams of light.

The researchers tested the device on five healthy subjects between the ages of 23-31 years old. They were able to collect images of the subjects eyes from both a wide angle and narrow angle view.

The study authors stressed the importance of screenings for early detection of many eye diseases. They stated that people can have eye diseases with no vision-related symptoms.

One example provided was of a Canadian study in 2003. In this study about 15 percent of the population had an eye disease despite having no vision-related symptoms and about two-thirds of those with an eye disease had a best corrected visual acuity of 20/25.

Best corrected visual acuity is a measure of a person’s central vision when they’re wearing corrective lenses or glasses. Having 20/20 vision is considered normal and having 20/40 vision is required to pass a driving test.

Fujimoto and colleagues noted that if caught early many of these diseases can be successfully treated before vision loss even occurs.

They concluded that costs need to be lowered for more widespread use of the device in clinical settings.

This study was published on December 20 in Biomedical Optics Express.

The study authors reported no competing interests.

Review Date: 
December 30, 2013
Last Updated:
December 31, 2013