0432 GMT November 27, 2020
People with glaucoma, or at risk of developing glaucoma, require lifelong monitoring, including regular eye tests to track the progression of the disease. Currently, these examinations require regular hospital visits (e.g., twice yearly, for life) and use expensive, specialist equipment, eurekalert.org reported.
Aging populations make this hospital-only model of patient-management unsustainable, and many clinics are already overstretched, with appointments routinely delayed or cancelled. In the UK today, around 20 people a month are going blind as a result of this appointment backlog.
This situation has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, since the inability to sanitize equipment between use has led to all routine sight assessments being suspended in the UK. The long-term effects of this are unknown, but experts suggest that further increases in appointment delays and avoidable blindness appear inevitable.
Even if routine assessments are ever fully resumed, it is also thought that the current system of annual hospital visits is insufficient to track the most aggressive forms of glaucoma.
Multiple studies have already suggested that more frequent (e.g., monthly) glaucoma eye tests could substantially improve clinical outcomes: Allowing high risk patients to be treated sooner and more appropriately.
A new study from City, University of London adds to a body of evidence suggesting that the solution to all these problems may lie in home-monitoring.
The research involved 20 NHS glaucoma patients from across England and Wales who were provided with a prototype, tablet-based eye test ('Eyecatcher') for six months. Using the device, they were asked to run the home glaucoma eye test themselves, testing each of their eyes once a month.
Similar to conventional eye tests for glaucoma, patients looked at a central cross presented on the device, and pressed a button when they saw a flash of light, which appeared at different locations and was of variable intensity.
The computer's front-facing camera also recorded them during the test, and artificial intelligence (AI) was used to perform facial recognition and head-/eye-tracking, to ensure people performed the test correctly.