More than Gaming: VR Contributes to Glaucoma Research

Virtual googles used by a manVirtual reality (VR) is not a new concept; it has been around since the 1930s, making its first appearance in Stanley G. Weinbaum’s short story, ‘Pygmalion’s Spectacles.’ After years of continual development and innovation, the kick starter for the Oculus Rift started. Since then, VR games, movies, and TV programs have flourished.

Apart from entertainment, however, VR has something to offer the health industry, more specifically those suffering from chronic eye conditions, including glaucoma.

Diagnosing Glaucoma Using Virtual Reality

A team that includes Dr Ramesh Ayyala, Tulane professor of ophthalmology, Caroline Wenk, associate professor of computer science, and Joshua Frenkel, a medical resident, conducted a study that aims to make ‘portable diagnostics cut the cost and bring technology to patients’ doorsteps.’ Wenk considered this research necessary, given that glaucoma is the world’s second leading cause of blindness.

Glaucoma damages the eye’s optic nerve, which is what happens when the normal fluid pressure inside the eyes increases. Screening and early detection reduce the cost for cataract surgery, whether you’re having it done in Singapore or anywhere else.

The current device used to test the condition is the Humphrey’s Visual Field Analyser (HVFA), and the team wanted to challenge this by using a more affordable and portable solution – a virtual reality headset. The goal was to make it possible for people to take the test anywhere using technology. The team is currently working on making a system that is easier to use.

Virtual Reality as a Method to Measure Balance Control

Falls are common and are associated with injury-related death among older adults.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, developed a new way to measure balance control in glaucoma patients using the Oculus Rift. They conducted a test on 80 participants, half of them diagnosed with open-angle glaucoma and simulated various types of motion. The test subjects’ movements were all recorded using a force platform.

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They found out that those with glaucoma had more difficulty regaining their balance compared to those who do not and suspected these might be because of their loss of retinal ganglion cells.

These studies open more opportunities for studies regarding glaucoma and other chronic eye diseases. Regarding VR, this can branch out into detecting and diagnosing other kinds of illnesses in the future.