Edmonton VR software program helps diabetes sufferers study imaginative and prescient loss

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Dorothy Nelson’s vision in her left eye began to blur 11 years ago.

When she searched for answers to explain the sudden loss of vision, neither Nelson nor her doctor looked at the life-changing risk of her type 1 diabetes.

By the time she was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, she could no longer see from her left eye.

Determined to help other diabetics, she volunteered as a patient research partner for a virtual reality module developed by Edmonton-based developer KOVR.

The Stratos module gives users a virtual look through the eyes of people with diabetic retinopathy, a disease caused by complications due to diabetes.

“This tool is just one of many tools out there. But it’s a good place to start. Diabetics, or even someone new to diagnosis, need to understand how serious the complications can be,” she told Edmonton AM .

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The good news is that most cases of the disease are preventable, says Dr. Matthew Tennant, Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at the University of Alberta. But he says education is key.

“If you can train a person to be seen annually and also really understand the symptoms and signs of diabetic retinopathy, we may be able to identify them early, possibly treat them, and then eliminate the risk of vision loss.” ” he said.

Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina due to high blood sugar levels. It can start with minor symptoms, such as: B. if the patient notices swimmers in the eye and then progress rapidly. An individual may face irreversible vision loss and, in some cases, blindness.

The Edmonton-made VR technology is designed to help people spot these early signs before the disease becomes severe. Aaron Clifford, lead developer and designer of the education module, said he was intrigued by using VR for educational purposes.

“The idea was just so fascinating,” he said.

“To be able to use virtual reality to change your perception of what it’s really about. So we just walked in and started experimenting with what was possible.”

An image of what a person sees when wearing VR glasses loaded with the Stratos module. (Submitted by KOVR)

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of legal blindness in people of working age, according to Diabetes Canada. Detecting and treating diabetic retinopathy early can reduce the risk of blindness by 95 percent, according to the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

When Nelson first noticed something was wrong with her eye, she said the doctors mistakenly diagnosed it as cataract, a clouding in the lens of the eye that causes vision deterioration.

“He didn’t find out it was retinopathy,” she said.

According to Tennant, the ophthalmologist, the VR tool will educate not only patients but healthcare providers as well.

“Pretty much any eye disease that has any visual symptoms is perfect for virtual reality because you can create a simulation that describes exactly what a patient can actually experience for themselves,” he said.

“I would say for training purposes, educational purposes, virtual reality is really the future.”