Boston, MA--Scientists at Schepens Eye Research Institute, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, say a visual aid they invented promises to improve the visual abilities of people with tunnel vision. In the first study to evaluate this small high tech device, the research team saw a significant increase in the effectiveness and speed with which visually impaired individuals found objects. The study -- in the September issue of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science -- shows that this device, which combines a tiny camera, pocket-sized computer and transparent computer display on a pair of glasses, may offer the most effective assistance to date for this patient population.
"We are very pleased with the results of this first evaluation and hope that with further study and refinement, we may soon make this device available for the public," says low vision expert Dr. Eli Peli, the inventor, a senior scientist at Schepens, and a professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and the senior author of the study,
About one in 200 Americans over age 55 suffers from tunnel vision, as a result of diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and glaucoma. RP can begin to affect vision in one's teen years and may become quite severe tunnel vision by middle age. Residual tunnel vision occurs when peripheral or side vision is destroyed, leaving only a small window of central vision. The field of view of these patients can be likened to looking through the tube of a roll of paper towels. Thus, tunnel vision can often cause the individual to bump into or trip over obstacles. "Navigating city streets or buildings can be quite challenging," says Dr. Gang Luo, the study's first author, adding that for a person with tunnel vision, finding a misplaced item is like searching for a key in a dark room using a tiny flashlight. Luo is a senior research associate at Schepens Eye Research Institute and an instructor in Ophthalmology at Harvard Medica
Contact: Patti Jacobs
Schepens Eye Research Institute