A novel computer-simulated approach to prescribe eyeglasses under development at the University of Houston College of Optometry (UHCO) has received $1.67 million in funding granted by the National Eye Institute (NEI) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The strategy is meant to improve the vision of patients who suffer from Down syndrome.
There are over 400,000 Down syndrome patients in the United States alone. Visual deficits are common among those who suffer from this condition, including little capacity to focus, eye misalignment or strabismus, and degraded visual acuity despite the use of corrective lenses. As such, UHCO researchers are working on novel computer-simulated prescribing strategies in order to improve vision and quality of life.
“The motivation for our study is a recent finding that individuals with Down syndrome have increased levels of distortions in the optics of their eyes that we believe leads to poorer visual acuity with current spectacle prescribing methods than the typical patient eye with fewer distortions,” explained principal investigator Heather Anderson, who is an assistant professor at UHCO. “We hope to demonstrate improved acuity with prescribing strategies that are derived when considering these higher level optical distortions.”
In order to accomplish this goal, the research team is going establish a comparison between the accomplishments from prescriptions clinically created and undertaken by experienced physicians with prescriptions generated through a computer program based on to optical distortions. Over the next five years, scientists are going to conduct a clinical study for the approach, with participant enrollment beginning this spring.
The traditional routine eye examination process is not effective in Down syndrome individuals, due to the challenges posed by the combination of intellectual deficiency and high optical distortions. Therefore, there is an additional challenge that reduces the probability of determining optimal prescriptions.
What scientists expect to accomplish are computer simulations that can determine the best possible prescription after measuring patients’ optical eye distortions, as well as conducting a computational analysis that should increase the effectiveness of the prescription. The plan is to offer a fast exam with numerous sets of sphere and cylinder corrections that can significantly improve vision.
“We will then dispense spectacles determined both by computational analysis, as well as from examinations by experienced clinicians, to determine whether the computational method can outperform current clinical techniques in both visual acuity achieved and patient preference,” said Dr. Anderson. “If we find the mathematically derived prescriptions perform better for participants with Down syndrome than those resulting from current clinical techniques, the next step will be to conduct a large-scale, multi-center clinical trial.”
“This is certainly a team effort, and the timing of all of us coming together is what enabled this project to come to fruition,” Dr. Anderson added. “All these skills are critical as we move forward in attempts to improve vision for individuals with Down syndrome.”
The team also believes that this method can also be used in instruments that assess optical distortions, enabling clinicians to conduct these tests efficiently. Importantly, this technology is already being tested in patients with high levels of optical distortions related to eye diseases.