The disease glaucoma actually refers to a collection of disorders affecting the eye that eventually lead to optic nerve damage. Glaucoma can cause irreversible blindness and vision loss in patients. Currently, more than 3 million Americans are coping with the effects of the disease, for which there is still no cure.
People who develop the most common form of the disease, open-angle glaucoma, experience almost no symptoms in the early stages of the condition. Regular visits to an ophthalmologist can help recognize glaucoma before it is symptomatic. Those people with the later stages of the disease may find themselves struggling daily with vision-related tasks.
Recently, a number of entrepreneurs and startup companies have developed new technologies to aid people living with glaucoma. The tools they have designed simplify the daily lives of people with glaucoma and make it easier to live with the condition. Three examples of the technologies are listed below.
XEN Gel Stent
First invented by Arnold Prywes, MD, in 1991, the XEN Gel Stent is a minuscule, pressure-relieving tube that is surgically implanted into the eye of patients with difficult-to-manage cases of glaucoma. Its long path to approval for use in patients from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration didn’t happen until 2017.
Comparable in width to a human hair, the XEN Gel Stent works by acting as a synthetic plumbing system within the trabecular meshwork of the eye. This allows the body to maintain lower levels of intraocular pressure (IOP) by draining excess fluid in the eye. IOP is considered to be one of the primary causes of most forms of glaucoma due to its tendency to damage the eye’s optic nerve.
The XEN Gel Stent technology has received a significant amount of media attention in the last several years. It represents a life-changing form of medical care for those whose conditions are not responding to traditional methods of glaucoma maintenance, including eye drops or laser surgery.
Founded by computer engineer Conrad Lewis, whose two sisters are legally blind, eSight is a groundbreaking step forward in the treatment of visual impairment. The eSight electronic glasses rely on a high-speed, high-definition camera to project optimized and enhanced real-time footage of any scene the wearer is observing.
All footage captured by eSight glasses is presented to the wearer on two near-to-eye screens, one in front of each eye. Footage is projected clearly in nearly real-time. It can be controlled by the wearer, who can zoom, add contrast and enhance focus.
On the company’s website, eSight is recommended for use by patients with glaucoma as well as numerous other eye conditions affecting sight. The technology enables individuals to once again engage in activities they once enjoyed and see the faces of relatives and friends, often for the first time. Ultimately, eSight represents a crucially important technology for its ability to help patients with glaucoma regain some of their independence and autonomy in spite of vision loss.
iPhone and iPad
While not invented specifically for the aid of people living with glaucoma, iPhone and iPad products have nonetheless allowed for patients living with the condition to more easily navigate daily life. Several well-developed smartphone apps offer a variety of useful features to those with low vision as a result of glaucoma or other vision impairments.
The app VoiceOver has been a game-changer for people with visual impairments since it was first introduced on the Mac OS X Tiger operating system in 2005. It has been a free feature of all iPhone models since the 3GS.
VoiceOver enables people affected by low vision or blindness to operate their smartphones with the aid of a digital voice that narrates all of the user’s actions on the iPhone screen.
VoiceOver can be used to select and open apps as well as read incoming and outbound text messages aloud. Additionally, it recognizes images and supports a braille keyboard for use in texting and web applications. VoiceOver can also provide detailed descriptions of designated movies purchased through the iPhone store.
Be My Eyes is a smartphone app that is free to use and functions through the support of volunteers. The platform connects people with low vision or who are blind to sighted volunteers via video chat.
Sighted volunteers assist app users with simple tasks, such as checking expiration dates, navigating unfamiliar surroundings or reading instructions. The app currently has more than 1.7 million volunteers supporting over 100,000 users speaking 180 different languages.
The LookTel Money Reader app came about because people living with low vision often have difficulty distinguishing between the values of paper money. In the past, people who are visually impaired had to rely on the goodwill of strangers to distinguish denominations.
LookTel Money Reader app scans and vocally identifies the denomination of currency. This makes it much simpler for people with vision impairments to perform crucial day-to-day shopping and banking tasks.