To understand how important our eyes are, let’s imagine we are in a park. As far as 20km away, we can see the sky, clouds, and greenery, hear the birds chirping, and smell the flowers 10m to 20m away. Touching and tasting are confined to the reach of our arms and tongues, respectively. Almost 85 per cent of what we perceive comes from our vision, so eye care solutions will always be a priority.
Let’s categorise the future of eye care into diagnostics and therapeutics. In recent years, scientists have created innovative diagnostic solutions, such as contact lens digital sensors to measure eye pressure, portable smartphone devices to view internal eye retinal images, and auto- refractor devices that can automatically detect the wearer’s spectacle power to improve telemedicine and remote eye examinations.
With deep learning and innovative algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI) has found a place in the future of eye care by diagnosing eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration. Using AI, large- scale community eye screenings become more manageable, more cost-effective, and improve healthcare efficiency.
The eye is also a window to our health. By 2030, we could have a systemic health profile that includes our haemoglobin count, cholesterol, blood pressure and risk of dementia levels just based on internal eye retinal scans. This is also possible due to machine learning and large datasets of detailed, high-quality retinal imaging.
In recent years, there has been good progress in therapeutic solutions, which are arguably more crucial than diagnostic ones. From voice-activated devices to bionic eye implants, we are close to restoring functional vision to those who are blind or partially blind. Additionally, researchers are working on improving patients’ vision with inherited retinal diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa, through gene therapy.
I believe there is still a role for human connection and personal touch between eye care providers and patients, despite technology and AI dominating our future. Innovative solutions and personalised eye care with portable eye equipment will be the future of eye care that I embrace. I also believe eye care, which encompasses education and awareness of eye health, will continue to be delivered by reassuring eye care providers combined with machines.
Dr Claudine Pang is the medical director of Asia Retina Eye Surgery Centre and founder of EyeQ & Eye Care Without Borders.