Forty years after television actor Lee Majors wowed the nation with the spectacular powers of his bionic eye, major medical institutions are implanting the real thing. Meanwhile, in the neighborhood offices of eye-care professionals, examinations that would have impressed the Six Million Dollar Man are happening daily.
Most of us with vision problems will not require a bionic eye, thanks in part to substantial investments in ophthalmology tools and technology. From corneal mapping to digitally imaging the back of the eye, today’s exam visit is far more in depth yet no more invasive than a decade ago.
As patients and consumers, we have access to cutting-edge technologies and more choices to consider when deciding where to get an eye exam. Here are some of the latest, million-dollar technologies you can expect to see at your next vision test.
Major advancements in eye technology
Corneal mapping: Also called corneal topography, this computer-assisted procedure literally maps the transparent layer at the front of the eye. Fast and painless, the test requires you to rest your chin on the chinrest and your forehead on the headrest, then stare calmly at a red light while illuminated rings swirl about. The rings project onto the corneal surface, measuring and reproducing its shape for the doctor to examine. The procedure is designed to detect distortions or scarring but may also be used to help fit contact lenses or to evaluate patients undergoing LASIK surgery.
OCT (optical coherence tomography) scans: Think of this as capturing a thin, colorful cross-section of your eye painlessly. The OCT is a noninvasive test that uses light waves to scan the retina, a delicate, light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. With the scan, your eye doctor can map and measure retina thickness. The doctor may recommend this test for early detection of age-related macular degeneration, diabetic eye disease and other eye conditions.
Retinal imaging: Consider this test your retina’s close-up. This pain-free procedure captures a highly detailed digital image of the retina, blood vessels and optic nerve at the back of your eyes. In the span of a few minutes, the imager snaps the pictures and uploads them to a computer screen so your optometrist can view them and discuss the findings with you immediately. From year to year, your doctor can compare the images to detect the signs of eye disease, including glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.
The Six Million Dollar Man’s bionic eye enabled him to zoom in on faraway enemies and magnify the details of a fingerprint. In today’s eye exam rooms, like those at LensCrafters and many independent vision providers, digital technology is enabling optometrists to perform similar feats to prevent major health conditions, quickly and comfortably. With EyeMed benefits, you don’t need to be a millionaire to access the best in optical care.