There are about 250 million visually impaired people around the world. Many of these cases are either preventable or even curable. This is a needless illness in many cases and as such, The World Health Organization made it a priority for many years to come.
Cataracts are a common cause of vision loss, and cataract surgery has a high success rate. That is just one example, and the number of operations is increasing in number and it is projected that there will be 32 million cataract surgeries by 2020.
Other methods to help cure blindness and vision loss are also being researched. Being studied are femtosecond lasers which are ultra-short and focused beams of light that target the bumps and film of a cataract without any cutting which has, in some cases, damaged the eye or caused complications in the healing process. The lasers are so accurate that unhealthy individual molecules are targeted while healthy material is not affected.
This technology has other potential use cases. Dr. Josef Bille, the inventor of laser eye surgery and contributor to these femtosecond lasers, believes this solution goes beyond improving cataract surgery. He believes that even normal vision can be improved, helping people see more contrast, brighter colors, and clearer in unclear conditions.
Other technology includes wavefront technology. German scientists claim detailed scans like this can provide information that in addition to other new technologies could be used to slow the aging process. Deterioration could be detected before any of the symptoms are felt by the patient.
There are, unfortunately, many barriers to the new technology, and they include all of the common players, FDA, adoption, education and of course, cost. As of right now, the cost of one of these machines is $500,000 dollars, but it is exciting to think about all the potential uses and implications of the various technologies already being researched.