Retinal diseases may be incurable, at the moment, but, with the help of specialized training and technology, they are not unmanageable. In fact, a savvy patient working with a conscientious eye doctor can adjust relatively well to the various stages of vision loss — via, for instance, mobility or assistive-technology training. And in the case of wet age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, there are treatments that slow vision loss.
That makes the recent announcement that the FDA approved use of an iPhone test enabling those with AMD to monitor their eyesight at home a heartening one. Called myVisionTrack, the test was designed at the FFB-funded Retina Foundation of the Southwest by Dr. Yi-Zhong Wang. He co-founded the company Vital Art and Science, which developed the test and tried it out it in clinical trials last year.
The test displays three circles on the screen of an iPhone 4S, one of which is shaped differently from the other two. The user taps the odd circle, which calls up three more, only the difference is more subtle this time. This process continues until the user hits the wrong circle. The results are then stored and compared to previous tests’ results, which lets both patient and doctor — who receives the results remotely — know whether the former’s vision has gotten worse and may demand treatment.
Although this isn’t the first time the FDA has approved a smartphone-related monitoring system, it’s not a common occurrence, especially in the retina field. For various technical reasons, the FDA approved a test designed for use with the iPhone 4S only, but Vital Art and Science is working to make it compatible with other devices. The whole package is also prescription-only. There’s a long way to go on this, but the company believes that, once the test can be used on other phones, an app will qualify for over-the-counter status.
We at FFB are hopeful that myVisionTrack proves to be a useful tool for AMD patients. Early detection is essential for properly managing AMD. Technology that empowers someone who’s been diagnosed to monitor his or her own vision will help that person do all he or she needs to do, with help from a doctor, to live a healthy, fulfilling life.