Vision test tracking eye-to-brain communication

When we look at something, the visual interpretation is received through the eyes, but interpreted by the brain.  Find out how new diagnostic technology in Southwest Louisiana is tracking the eye-to-brain communication signal and how it could save your vision.

Garland Peck has been near-sighted for years and knew he had blurred vision, but it took an expert to tell him he had glaucoma or damage to the optic nerve.  "It's just like having diabetes. You don't know you have it until you get checked," he said.

OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) showed the thinning of the optic nerve.  But now, Dr. Al O'Byrne, an ophthalmologist at The Eye Clinic, is using VEP (Vision Evoked Potential) to see it more clearly.  "You don't want to wait until there is visual field loss before you detect the disease," said Dr. O'Byrne, "there's always been an attempt to find better ways to discover the disease prior to damage."

The VEP vision testing system measures the activity of neurons in the visual system, determining how your eye talks to your brain.  "So the patient has perfectly normal vision," said Dr. O'Byrne, "we do the VEP and we discover that the nerve is not 100 percent and that helps us start treatment before people lose any vision."

The test process itself involves sitting in a chair facing a screen with a red circle and having three electrodes placed on the head.  "It's painless and it doesn't take any time at all," said Peck, "five minutes and you're finished."

Peck's results showed early glaucoma.  Since it was detected before vision loss, treatment is minimal to halt future damage.

For peck, it only involves eye drops. He says he is grateful he had the diagnostic test.  "He (Dr. O'Byrne) said if I wouldn't have come in, probably in five or ten years I would be blind."

VEP vision testing has been around for several years, but typically only in university settings and the equipment took up an entire room. Now, it is available in clinic settings using electrodes, a monitor and computer.

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