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New Camera Technology Making Waves in Ophthalmology

Curators’ Corner

New Camera Technology Making Waves in Ophthalmology

If you’ve ever had an eye exam, you might remember those stinging eye drops that are used to dilate your pupils. The medicine works to either relax the muscles that make the pupil constrict, or to stimulate the contraction of the muscles that enlarge the pupil. The enlargement of the pupils allows for a doctor to examine and take photographs of the back of the patient’s eye, but the effects can take up to 24 hours to wear off, causing a bit of inconvenience for the temporarily blurry-eyed patient.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine have teamed up with Harvard Medical School to develop a pocket-sized retina camera (or fundus camera) that is portable and requires zero drops, according to News Medical. Patients’ photos can be shared electronically with other doctors, and printed and attached to medical records.

“The camera is based on the Raspberry Pi 2 computer, a low-cost, single-board computer designed to teach children how to build and program computers,” explains the University of Illinois at Chicago website. “The board hooks up to a small, cheap infrared camera, and a dual infrared – and white-light-emitting diode. A handful of other components – a lens, a small display screen and several cables – make up the rest of the camera.”

Photo Credit: UIC News Center

An infrared light first focuses on the retina before a white flash emits quickly to capture a photograph of the retina, blood supply and the optic nerve. These photos can reveal several health issues, and cost only $185 whereas similar diagnostic tools often cost thousands of dollars.

The team shared their research via an article in the Journal of Ophthalmology stating, “Recent work has shown that smartphones can be used for fundus photography. Smartphones have the advantage of being ubiquitous and being easy to connect to mobile or wireless networks.” The article recommends a setting that would allow the camera to have a “dongle” setting, which “would have an infrared-sensitive camera board and dual infrared and white light LED but would rely on the smartphone to provide the battery, touchscreen viewfinder, and internet connection, increasing the portability and decreasing the cost of the camera.”

It’s always a wonderful thing when photography drives medical advancements. We look forward to the eye care benefits this new miniature fundus camera may bring.