Screening for eye health problems on the spot
Posted on 23 April 2019
Dr Yajna Kooblal, a new paediatrician at Mediclinic Cape Town, is using an innovative piece of technology to diagnose and treat eye conditions in children.
It’s quick, it’s non-invasive, and it’s promising to help diagnose eye health problems in children like never before at Mediclinic Cape Town.
Dr Yajna Kooblal is new to private practice. As an alumnus of Tygerberg Academic Hospital at Stellenbosch University, she qualified to practice medicine in 2015, and has recently begun working as one of Mediclinic Cape Town’s resident paediatricians.
One of the main reasons she has moved into private practice, she says, is the opportunity to bring new services and treatments to her patients. Mediclinic Cape Town is eager to assist her in this regard, and has helped her secure an innovative piece of technology to diagnose and treat eye conditions in children.
The Spot Vision Screener is a handheld, instrument-based vision screening tool that allows doctors to detect vision issues in patients from six months of age. This is a game-changer, says Dr Kooblal, as until now paediatricians have had to wait until their patients are at least 3 or 4 years old to obtain accurate and reliable readings.
“This screener gives us an alternative to traditional visual acuity testing,” she says. “Usually, we’d use eye charts to gauge the clarity of a patient’s vision. This is a lot more effective, as it allows us to measure a patient’s eye health risk factors much earlier in life.”
Among the factors tested by a typical visual acuity test are the sharpness of the retinal focus within the eye, the health and functioning of the retina and the sensitivity of the interpretative faculty of the brain.
“The Spot Vision Screener has two screens, one for the patient and one for me,” says Dr Kooblal. “It makes use of recorded sounds, which distract the patient – we ask him or her to look for the birds that are chirping, for example. The aim is that the patient will look around, and into the camera. When that happens, the screener captures a high-resolution picture of their eye.”
Dr Kooblal says the screener then provides her with readings and measurements that can help diagnose early warning signs of such conditions as myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, anisometropia, strabismus or anisocoria, among others.
“It works much like a quick, accurate scan,” she says. The purpose of the screener is really to provide me with values. I interpret those, and decide if my patients requires help from an optometrist or ophthalmologist.”
The screener is particularly effective with young or difficult patients. One limitation of the traditional eye test – such as the Snellen Chart or LogMAR Test – is that it requires young, often fidgety and easily bored young patients to work together with their doctor in reading and pointing our items on a board.
The Spot Vision Screener on the other hand requires no cooperation from the child, other than to sit in one place for a few minutes, looking for where the device’s sound is coming from. The device requires the patient to look into the camera for no more than a split-second.
Whereas typical screening options are only effective from 3 or 4 years of age, with this screener, doctors are able to obtain a more accurate reading of their patient’s visual acuity from just six months – and by diagnosing warning signs of potential eye health concerns years earlier than before, eye health specialists are armed with the information they need to recommend life-changing treatment options much earlier in life.
“Early detection and preventative medicine are key, especially with children,” says Dr Kooblal. “This applies across the board, not only with eye health. The earlier we pick up warning signs that point to problems, the better your outcome.”