Tailor-made lenses available through new smart technology
Smart medicine is the future of medicine. Information technology, artificial intelligence, and big data are becoming increasingly important in health care, which is becoming more human-centered and convenient. This series, which covers various aspects of the health field, is intended to demonstrate what high technology, smart systems, and inventions are capable of.
New smart technology is now being applied to provide tailor-made lenses in line with people's more specific eyesight needs.
It is helping to overcome the discomfort experienced by many people who use contact lenses that don't ideally fit their eyeball shape or curvature, or rectify individual eyesight issues.
"Whereas you can choose various sizes from a collection of ready-to-wear suits, you can also walk into a tailor's shop and get a hand-made suit completely fitting your body shape," said Dr Yan Yan from Shanghai Bright Eye Hospital.
"Today's smart medicine also means individualized and tailor-made therapies and services for better treatment effects. The eyes are a very delicate organ, so tailored products can bring much benefit to people," Yan said.
An improved lens technology was introduced to China late last year and a few eye hospitals are now providing the fully digitalized services for devices such as an orthokeratology lens.
Orthokeratology is a common overnight vision correction and corneal refractive therapy. By temporarily reshaping the cornea to reduce refractive errors such as myopia, farsightedness and astigmatism, it is popular for both children and adults.
It is a viable alternative to eyeglasses, refractive surgery, or for people who prefer not to wear contact lenses during the day.
"Usually, patients have their eyes checked in the hospital and then doctors select the lens style that suits them," Yan said.
"This digital technology collects nearly 10,000 pieces of data about the patient's eyes and the computer makes a calculation for the most appropriate design of the lens.
"Doctors then make adjustments based on a patient's requirements and additional medical needs. The design is then sent to the manufacturer which produces the lenses."
"The lenses are made in line with people's own eye conditions, overcoming sensations of discomfort from wearing an odd item," she said. "For children, the benefit is more significant."
In addition to tailored lenses, the smart technology is helping eye surgery to be safer and more accurate. A technology called iOCT, or intraoperative optical coherence tomography, a noninvasive imaging modality, is available in operating theaters.
It provides real-time visualization of the ocular structure during surgery and supports the doctor's decision-making throughout the procedure.
"It is such a great improvement. The tool can be called the eye of eye surgeons," said Dr Wang Fang, president of Shanghai Bright Eye Hospital.
"Previously, we didn't know about the patient's eye condition without using imaging technology during surgery. Sometimes, the surgery itself could cause damage to the eye, which the doctors couldn't see in time to adjust during the procedure, as the human eye can't see such tiny problems," she said.
"Such imaging checks would be done in the outpatient department as it was impossible to move the patient out of the operating theater for a check outside.
"As we couldn't identify the condition until after the surgery was finished, patients sometimes had to undergo a second corrective surgery.
"Thanks to iOCT, we can now have a very clear understanding of a patient's eye condition during the surgery through receiving real-time information. Doctors can make changes or do repairs whenever the tool detects problems and thus avoid surgical damage," she said.
Thus, iOCT can significantly affect surgical decision making and cause a subsequent change in surgical strategy.
"The system is an intelligent guide for surgeons."
In addition to eye surgery, Wang said iOCT is also expected to be used on stem cell and gene therapy procedures involving the eyes.