On the face of it, a pair of emergency contact glasses could prove to be the most important piece of technology ever made for blind people.
For those of us who have suffered from chronic retinal detachment, a loss of vision is a serious blow, and one that can cause a person to struggle to see, hear, or write.
But if it can be used to treat vision problems, it could also help people with other forms of blindness, according to a new study.
The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, found that people with retinal problems who received emergency contact-lens treatment showed significant improvement in their visual acuity.
“It is remarkable that the combination of these two tools can improve the quality of life for millions of people in this country,” said Dr. Steven M. Siegel, lead author of the study and director of the Department of Vision and Ophthalmology at Duke University.
“We believe this is the first study to demonstrate that this combination of the two is effective in improving vision.”
According to the researchers, the use of emergency contacts has been used to help blind people avoid a range of eye conditions.
But for some people, the lenses are especially useful, because they allow them to view their own body without having to rely on other devices.
“There are some people who cannot see well with the conventional contact lenses that we use, and then we give them an emergency contact, and they can use the contact lenses and get to see their body without using a prescription,” said study co-author Dr. James M. Staley, an eye doctor and professor of ophthalmology and ophthalmology at Duke.
“If they’re using the prescription contact lenses we have in the eye doctor’s office, they can’t see well, so we give the emergency contact.”
The emergency contact solution is known as retinal contact lenses because the lenses can be adjusted to the shape of the eye and the distance between the eyes, so they are placed directly over the lens to provide a constant and consistent visual field.
The lenses can also be changed or removed to allow people to adjust the appearance of their vision without having them lose vision in the process.
The researchers tested the effectiveness of the emergency lenses in two groups of people who were visually impaired and used conventional contact lens therapy: 1) people with chronic retinitis pigmentosa (CPP), which causes damage to the retina and affects about 20 percent of the population; and 2) people who have moderate CPP.
Both groups of patients had problems in both their vision and hearing.
When the emergency contacts were applied, both groups had improvements in vision, but the CPP patients showed the greatest improvement.
“People with CPP had more severe problems than the CPF patients,” said Staley.
“The CPF people were able to see better with the emergency lens, but they were not as good as people with CPPP.
They were still impaired by the CPPP and couldn’t see their surroundings well.
The CPP people, however, were able see clearly.”
The findings suggest that people who are blind can benefit from emergency contact optics.
It may help them keep up with their surroundings, read text or email, and interact with others in ways that other people cannot.
“It was a very important study, as we have a long way to go in understanding what people with vision loss experience when they use emergency contacts,” said Siegel.
“There are many questions we still need to answer, but we believe this study offers us a valuable foundation for understanding what works and what doesn’t work in this complex disorder.”
In the future, researchers hope to study the safety of the lenses and the efficacy of using emergency contacts in other people.
The findings are published in Science Trans Lational Medicine.
About this researchThe research was funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI), National Institutes of Health, the Duke Center for Science and Technology and the National Institutes for Health.