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Will the Smart Phone One Day Perform a LASIK Procedure?

A smartphone performing a LASIK procedure? Not now, but maybe one day. What is certain is that ongoing advances in medical technology have made life better here in the United States. Now, a new smartphone-based portable eye examination kit called Peek is aiming to help people in developing countries. The app can be operated by a non-expert to gather detailed clinical information, diagnose eye disease (cataracts, glaucoma, muscular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and even brain tumors and hemorrhages), and check prescriptions for vision lenses. The phone’s screen can even show a shrinking letter as a basic vision test.

The great advantage of this digital kit, however, lies in its convenience. It is incredibly easy to use and portable, able to perform complex eye tests with no need for heavy or expensive equipment. Doctors can now move freely without bulky gear, while data from eye exams is recorded on the phone and can be shared with the rest of the world. At present, to run a full range of eye tests, you would need state-of-the-art hospital equipment costing more than $150,000, and 15 trained staff to operate it.

All you need to operate the Peek is a mobile app and a small piece of clip-on hardware. With these simple add-ons, an Android smartphone can transform into a portable, affordable, fully functional examination and diagnostic suite. Just some of its many features includes geo-tagging, which makes it easier to locate a patient. Google maps help in locating the patients, as the phone guides health workers to them. Once the patient is diagnosed, treatment can then be arranged. It also has several eye tests programs, which measure visual acuity (clearness of vision), color vision, contrast sensitivity, lens imaging for cataracts, retinal imaging and image grading. Other applications for the app are in development as well, including an auto refractor, which is primarily used for front of the eye imaging, and a suite of examination tools for children.

Currently, the Peek is also being used outside the third-world for other purposes. For example, a team from the Coldest Journey is testing the system for a future journey. Led by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the expedition is poised to be the first-ever attempt to trek 2,000 miles across Antarctica in the winter. The team is using the device to test their eyes as they battle extreme weather conditions. With the technology of the Peek, they can find out exactly how much their eyes and vision change as they are continuously exposed to the elements.

This wonderful technology is brought to us by a team of London researchers, headed by Dr. Andrew Bastawrous, an ophthalmologist and research fellow at the famed London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Stewart Jordan, the co-founder of the largest mobile application developers in Europe. Money for the development came from the British Council for the Prevention of Blindness (BCPB), the Medical Research Council (MRC), and Fight for Sight and the International Glaucoma Association (IGA). The Peek team says that 285 million people in the world are visually impaired. Over 39 million will actually go blind, with 90 percent of those people living in low-income countries where treatment is difficult to come by. The good news is that 80 percent of the world’s blindness is avoidable—and the Peek may be integral to treatment and prevention. The researchers say early results are promising: so far, about 1,000 people have had some form of successful treatment. Peter Ackland, from the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, told the BBC he thinks Peek could be a “huge game changer.”

After learning this, a smartphone that has a built in laser that could be used to perform the LASIK procedure doesn’t seem so far off. If you would like to benefit from LASIK procedure now, make an appointment by calling 781-769-8880.