Breakthrough Laser Camera Leads To Early Detection Of Eye Disease

June 3, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE, Toronto

A new scanning laser camera that can detect diseases of the eye that may otherwise be overlooked has just arrived in Canada.

This scanning laser ophthalmoscope developed by Optos – the first of its kind in Toronto – can screen for diseases of the eye, such as diabetic problems, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), retinal detachment and hypertension. It gives a panoramic view of the back of the eye and provides a full image on a computer screen with one click of the button.

By age 65, one in nine Canadians will experience vision loss that cannot be corrected. By age 80, that figure increases to one in four. Routine exams of the retina are important to protect eyesight. Certain diseases, detected early enough, can be treated.

Using this new technology, the eye exam is painless and it often means no more dilating drops that leave a patient with blurry vision and light sensitivity. This part of the eye exam takes seconds and provides an enhanced image of the retina which can be clearly seen by the patient and doctor at the same time. The image is used as a baseline for comparison from year to year. It can also be sent to specialists around the world for a diagnosis. There are currently nine units in Canada.

“This takes eye care to a new level,” says Dr. Kerry Salsberg, an optometrist at Eyes on Sheppard, where the unit was launched in Toronto. “This technology today will be the standard in practices in five to 10 years.”

During a recent routine examination of a patient with the new instrument, an otherwise undetected hole was discovered in the peripheral retina, Dr. Salsberg says.

Traditionally, dilating drops are used and the eye exam can be time-consuming and uncomfortable for the patient. With this instrument, a patient’s head is positioned in the unit and the panoramic image of the eye immediately pops up on a nearby computer screen.  The Optomap retinal exam typically costs under $50.

This equipment was developed by Douglas Anderson, founder of Scottish company Optos, whose son Leif lost the sight in one eye at the age of five. The loss of vision was due to an undetected retinal tear after a bicycling accident. Anderson set out to develop a system that could not only capture an unprecedented view of the eye but one that was patient-friendly.


Fast facts

  • About 611,000 Canadians have “seeing limitations” according to Statistics Canada. Approximately 56,840 people were considered legally blind in Canada in 2001.
  • In 2002, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) served about 105,000 people across Canada. That number is projected to double by 2015. Every 10 minutes of every working day, a new client requests help from the CNIB.
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects more than 800,000 Canadians over the age of 40. The late stage, associated with vision loss, is the most common cause of legal blindness in people over the age of 50 in the western world.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness and visual disabilities in adults. Changes in the back of the eye are one of the first signs of diabetic damage.
  • It is important to have annual vision tests to protect eyesight. The back of your eye, the retina, needs to be checked to ensure it is healthy and not damaged or showing signs of disease. Many eye diseases, if detected early, can be treated successfully without a total loss of vision.

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