50,000 kids to get self-adjusting eyeglasses.


Nearly 100 million near-sighted teenagers in developing countries may soon be able to see normally without the need for specialist eye care as a project starts distributing specially designed glasses costing just US$15.

The Child ViSion project, which will begin handing out the first 50,000 pairs of their self-adjusting glasses in Asia this year, aims to provide affordable vision correction to all children who need it in the developing world.

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The initiative, paid for by donors and sponsors, is run by the UK non-profit Centre for Vision in the Developing World. They hope that establishing long-term distribution schemes via schools will bring down the costs.

“There are roughly 100 million myopic children in the developing world who need eyeglasses to see the board in class. The Child Vision glasses are essentially an educational intervention to get them to see clearly,” says the project’s founder and director, Joshua Silver.

The prototype glasses are a smaller, lighter and more fashionable version of the adult model, Adspecs. Both work by the wearer pumping silicone oil into the lenses, which change shape, allowing the user to instantly adjust the glasses to their needs.

Self-adjusting lenses are not new. Companies such as Focus on Vision have developed glasses with specially designed lenses that are adjusted by sliding them back and forth.

But according to Silver, Child ViSion glasses are the only variable-power design based on clinically tested data.

In the tests Silver and colleagues measured how accurately around 1,500 near-sighted teenagers aged 12 to 17 in China and the United States used the self-adjusting lenses. They found 95 per cent of children achieved vision just short of normal when looking at the standard eye chart.

“That’s good enough to function in class,” says Silver.

But, Peter Ackland, chief executive officer of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, which leads the VISION 2020 programme along with the WHO, says the glasses are not a replacement for professional eye care.

“Our approach is to try to develop local services where you can get an eye examination at the same time as specs. If you bypass that, you’re going to miss fundamental eye problems that can cause serious problems later in life.”

In places such as Sub-Saharan Africa, however, there can be as few as one optometrist for every million people. Until that number increases, Silver says the glasses can be a useful temporary solution.

Source: www.scidev.net

Smart lenses make spectacles accessible to millions.


 

Spectacles with variable lenses that can be adjusted by a wearer with no access to specialist eye care are being mass produced.

The first 30,000 pairs will be shipped to Afghanistan, Ghana and Tanzania by the end of the month.

Focusspec is the first self-adjustable lens to be produced in large quantities, though other similar glasses have been designed. The technology is expected to improve the lives of millions of adults in the developing world living with poor eyesight.

The spectacles were developed by Dutch industrial designer Frederik Van Asbeck, based on a discovery in 1964 by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Luis Alvarez. Alvarez designed a lens that was convex on one side and concave on the other. He found that by placing two such lenses on top of each other, and moving one relative to the other, the focus could be changed.

“The technology to produce those lenses with the needed high precision — an aberration of a micrometre will cause a headache — was developed only a few years ago,” Van Asbeck told SciDev.Net.

Anyone can adjust the strength of the lenses themselves, by turning wheels located on the side of the spectacles, eliminating the need for an eye expert.

Van Asbeck says Focus on Vision, serving the WHO’s VISION 2020 programme, will produce one million pairs of glasses a year in the Netherlands.

The glasses have been tested in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ghana, India, Nepal and Tanzania.

“I see people’s faces light up when they adjust their spectacles and discover they can read again, take care of themselves, work, get an education,” says Jan in ‘t Veld, a board member for Focus on Vision, which undertook a large part of the fieldwork.

In ‘t Veld says the lenses are scratch-, UV-, water- and dust-resistant — and optically almost as good as the far pricier lenses used in Western countries.

Ben van Noort, co-board member and ophthalmologist, points out that Focusspec lenses can only be adjusted between +0.5 to +4.5 dioptre or -1 to -5 dioptre (most people wear between -6 and +6) and they are unsuitable for astigmatism. “Still, they work for 80–90 per cent of adults,” he says.

Lillian Mujemula, optometrist and main distributor of the glasses in Tanzania agrees: “Most of our clients live in remote areas, where there are no optometrists. People are very happy with the glasses because they are of good quality and easy to use. I believe people can wear them for many years.”

Brien Holden, professor of optometry in Sydney and chairman of the International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE) told SciDev.Net: “The FocusSpec has an important place as a stop-gap solution. But they cannot replace the long-term strategy of educating eye care personnel and creating optical workshops and distribution channels in each community in need”.

Holden also points out there is a need for proper scientific field studies, which ICEE is now in the process of designing.

The spectacles are expected to be sold at local shops, schools and health centres for US$3–5 a pair.

Source: www.scidev.net