Emerging technology being used locally to detect eye diseases

Published: Aug. 8, 2012 at 10:16 AM CDT
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There is an emerging technology that is truly transforming the way the eye is seen.  It is something that could detect underlying eye conditions before blindness occurs.  Hart Eye Center in Lake Charles is the only eye center in the region housing the system.

As ophthalmologist Dr. William Hart guides Elaine Dyer through a baseline exam with the Cirrus Optical Coherence Technology machine, he gets a one-of-a-kind look behind her eye.  "First you can see the optic nerve," said Dr. Hart, "then the blood vessels."

Elaine has a family history of diabetes, something easily detected through the eyes.  When her vision started getting a little blurry, she wanted to make sure everything was okay.  "I can't do anything without my vision," said Elaine, "driving, my job, I'm in front of a computer a lot."

The OCT machine works like an ultrasound, but uses infrared light waves to measure distances of eye structures.  "this gives us a way to look at the cross section of the macula to see if there's any irregularities in the surface of the macula," said Dr. Hart.

Never before have eye doctors been able to get a detailed look at the retina - the tissue in the back of the eye that speaks volumes about diseases like diabetes, macular degeneration and glaucoma that can cause blindness.  "For years, we've dilated eyes and used a magnifying lens to visualize the retina," said Dr. Hart, "but there's limits to what you can see with your eye."

This technology allows ophthalmologists to be more aggressive than ever before, pinpointing the problem in its initial stage and slowing the progression.  "If we can find where the problem is starting, then we can institute therapy and begin scheduling the patient for more frequent follow-up visits," said Dr. Hart.

Elaine says the process was easy.  She just looked into a lens, focused on an image of a star and was finished.  The findings were well worth the few minutes the exam took, says Elaine, because of the peace of mind that she and her eyes are healthy.  "I'm absolutely very impressed and more reassured," she said.

Thousands of images of the eye are created within a couple of minutes with the OCT machine. Its resolution is almost 25 times better than other imaging machines.

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