Non-Contact Tonometers

Have you ever wondered what that device is at the eye doctor that puffs air into your eye? More importantly, have you ever wondered what it does?

Non-contact tonometers are one way to test for glaucoma. As the name suggests, these tonometers don’t make contact with the actual eye. Instead, a puff of air is used to flatten the cornea so the IOP can be measured.

Non-contact tonometer in Nepal.
Non-contact tonometer in Nepal.

This is useful in places where sanitation might be an issue since the risk of passing along an infection from one person to the next with a non-contact tonometer is essentially non-existent. Non-contact tonometers, like the ones pictured above and below, are also useful for being able to screen large masses of people in a short period of time. A tonometer like the one below is able to screen someone in under a minute. Since the eye is not coming in direct contact with the device, no dilation or numbing is required to perform the test. This also cuts down on the total time required to determine the IOP. In developing countries, numbing and dilating your eyes is not ideal, which is what makes non-contact tonometry so appealing.

Non-Contact Tonometer
Non-Contact Tonometer

The main issues with non-contact tonometry are the accuracy and the cost. These devices are not very accurate and the one pictured above is almost $7,000, which is a common price point for non-contact tonometers. In developing countries, it is very unlikely that a doctor would be able to afford one of these. People have to travel far and wide to have their IOP measured due to how expensive these devices are.

Since glaucoma is irreversible, early diagnosis is crucial, especially in developing countries where sight is survival. Typically, there are no warning signs until you already have significant vision loss. Creating new ways to make non-contact tonometers useful and readily available in developing countries will make a dramatic impact on people’s quality of life and life span.

A human being can survive almost anything, as long as he sees the end in sight.

By now you’ve probably guessed what’s coming up next… Contact tonometry. Be sure to check back in to find out how contact tonometry can be useful in developing countries all over the world.

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