University of Iowa doctor shows off high-tech vision test

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WASHINGTON (GrayDC) A University of Iowa doctor wants to help people keep their eyesight. He and a team of doctors developed a portable vision test and are in the nation’s capital.

The VA's Chief Research and Development Officer Dr. Rachel Ramoni tried on the virtual reality headset Dr. Michael Wall and his team develop to test for blinding diseases. (Source: Gray DC)

“Of all our senses, it seems to be one of the most important for us to navigate and get through the world. It’s devastating to lose vision,” said Dr. Wall.

The University of Iowa’s Doctor Michael Wall is on a mission to make sure veterans and others don’t go blind.

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“We want to find vision loss early when it’s treatable,” said the University of Iowa doctor.

Currently, patients have to go to a doctor’s office and use a giant, expensive machine for eye doctors to discover diseases like glaucoma.

For many veterans living in rural areas, that is not an option. So, he and team of investigators at the VA Center in Iowa developed a portable and affordable vision test.

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“People will be able to use this in their homes,” said Dr. Wall.

Using a virtual reality headset and an app on their phone, patients can strap on the system and use a clicker when they see spots of light.

“We have a print out and that print out shows the pattern of the visual loss and based on that pattern of visual loss, we can often make a diagnosis,” said Dr. Wall.

Wall and other doctors at the VA Research Day event in D.C. rely on funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs to make their creations possible.

The VA’s Chief Research and Development Officer Dr. Rachel Ramoni said it’s important for lawmakers to see first-hand how the VA is using government money to fund new technology.

“This research day on the hill is where we can showcase what people are getting for their taxpayer dollars,” said Dr. Ramoni.

Dr. Wall says the next step will be to test the portable system on patients. He hopes to distribute the device to places like VA eye clinics by next year.

Dr. Wall plans to go international with the portable vision test. He and his team are partnering up with an ophthalmologist from Ghana this summer to screen people across the country for vision diseases.

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