When it comes to pupil-dilating eye drops then the worst thing is its irritation. The irritating eye drops also take some time to work and it leaves patients with blurry visions for hours. Sometimes people who have eye surgery or eye disease cannot tolerate dilation. For these problems, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine and the Harvard Medical School have developed a new method.
They invented a cheap, portable camera that can photograph the retina without using pupil-dilating eye drops. The camera made out of simple and cheap parts available online and the cost of the camera is $185.
A second-year ophthalmology resident at the UIC College of Medicine, Dr. Bailey Shen said, “As residents seeing patients in the hospital, there are often times when we are not allowed to dilate patients — neurosurgery patients for example. Also, there are times when we find something abnormal in the back of the eye, but it is not practical to wheel the patient all the way over to the outpatient eye clinic just for a photograph.”
The scientists build the camera using a Raspberry Pi 2 computer that is connected to a cheap infrared camera and a dual infrared and white light emitting diode (LED). The other parts of the camera include a lens, small display and several cables. The small camera takes pictures of the back of the eye without eye drops and then photos can be shared with other doctors.
How the camera works
Most retina cameras use white lights which the pupil-dilating eye drops are needed. This camera emits the infrared light which the iris does not react to. In this camera, the infrared light is used to focus the camera on the retina. It takes just a few seconds and a quick flash of light is delivered as the picture is taken.
The photos taken by the camera show the retina and its blood supply and the portion of the optic nerve that leads into the retina which can reveal the health issues like glaucoma, diabetes and elevated pressure around the brain.
Shen said, “The device is currently just a prototype, but it shows that it is possible to build a cheap camera capable of taking quality pictures of the retina without dilating eye drops.”
“It would be cool, someday, if this device or something similar was carried around in the white-coat pockets of every ophthalmology resident, and used by physicians outside of ophthalmology as well.”