One of the latest crazes in the world of technology is virtual reality, often known as VR. While we might think of these as largely meant for a video game or other entertainment activity like that, it has found a wide range of other implementations. Perhaps one of the most fascinating applications is how it can be utilized in the field of medicine.
It should come as no surprise that it has recently started to be applied in the fields of optometry and ophthalmology. This is the treatment of eye health, if you are unfamiliar with the terms – and you can read more about those fields more here: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327500. It’s generally a good idea to learn the difference between them.
Our eyes are one of our most important organs, since they let us see the world around us. If your eyesight is bad you are likely quite familiar with visiting an eye doctor – usually the optometrist, who is a general care physician for eyes.
You sit down and do the little tests. Sometimes the machinery is uncomfortable and clunky. It can be hard to see the images for some of the tests due to the age of the machines or how different it is from more modern technology. Overall, it is not always the most fun experience.
Thankfully, there are now more options out there for optometrists and ophthalmologists. In the appointments with the former, usually they conduct an eye exam, a vision test, prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, and sometimes they will detect any irregularities in your eyes or prescribe medicine to treat any issues. That is generally considered some of the routine in an appointment.
The Vision Test
This is the part that we will focus on, as this is where virtual reality becomes relevant. The intent of these exams is to evaluate eye health and the strength of your vision, usually with the end goal of prescribing eyeglasses or contact lenses if necessary. I’m quite used to them given how poor my vision is!
Ideally, we should have them performed each year. However, due to some of the discomfort involved, a lot of us do end up slacking. That probably isn’t for the best, of course.
The field test is meant to test our peripheral vision – so, how much we can see from side to side without actually moving our eyes. This is where a visual field analyzer comes into play – that is the equipment used to perform this procedure.
Traditionally, these are big goggle-style machines that you are meant to stare into. There are several different types of this exam, but the confrontation one may just involve your doctor just holding fingers up in front of you for you to follow. It is the other methods that involve machinery.
It’s fascinating that virtual reality has been applied to these now, but it makes sense. Because of the nature of it, it seems highly applicable to this sort of test. After all, being able to test that periphery vision with a field in a virtual reality headset absolutely has a lot of potential. It’s no wonder it’s being explored!
VR and Medicine
It’s truly amazing how much this technology has already impacted the medical fields. While vision care is an obvious application, there are others too! This just expands the reasons you might want to invest in a headset for your place of business.
You can read some more about this fascinating topic here, https://medicalfuturist.com/5-ways-medical-vr-is-changing-healthcare/, but I’m more than happy to give some examples as well. The first that comes to mind is helping relax patients. This might not be what you think of but let me explain.
Medical procedures are stressful. That’s a given. If we can find ways to mitigate this for patients, that’s pretty much always going to be a good thing. A lot of patients have reported that if they look into a virtual reality headset and see calming atmospheres and landscapes, they feel better going into a surgery or other event.
Of course, there are also plenty of applications for medical practitioners. One of the biggest is to be able to watch an operation being performed from a first-person perspective, even if you are not the one doing it. Talk about an excellent learning tool, and even one good for guiding a trainee!
Another use we might not often think of it for a conference for the medical community. These can be long and drawn out, but with interactive features in a virtual reality space, they are seriously enhanced. Three-D graphics and presentations do tend to catch our attention a lot more effectively, after all!
Another fascinating way that VR is being utilized in medicine is in physical therapy. I was surprised to hear this, initially. This is because as I mentioned above, I often had associated virtual reality with video games and thus sitting still or being relatively stagnant. However, as I considered it more, this made a lot of sense to me.
When we wear a headset, we have to move ourselves to direction field of vision or some actions in the virtual space. It is only natural that this could be used to help people heal physical injuries as well. With this technology, it is possible for doctors to create digital spaces that are catered to the needs of their patients!
With all the different ways out there that VR is advancing medicine, it’s really no wonder that optometry has joined in.