Techniques developed by astronomers seeking a clear view of objects in space are coming closer to home, as eye care professionals apply the concept of wavefront optics to understanding-and correcting-subtle visual abnormalities of the human eye, according to a special article in the September issue of Optometry and Vision Science, official journal of the American Academy of Optometry. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.
Wavefront optics is beginning to transform the way optometrists and ophthalmologists think about the vision issues they encounter in everyday practice, according to the review by Larry N. Thibos, PhD, FAAO, of the School of Optometry at Indiana University, Bloomington. In recognition of his pioneering role in applying wavefront measurement to clinical optometry, Dr Thibos was named the 2012 Charles F. Prentice Award Lecture Medalist.
Wavefront Optics-From the Observatory to Your Optometrist's Office
"The aim of this lecture, and its publication in Optometry and Vision Science, is to help make advances in these areas of optometric science broadly accessible to educators, clinicians, and patients by explaining in simple terms the underlying optical concepts of wavefront aberrometry," according to Dr Thibos. He presents and illustrates the key concepts underlying the application of wavefront measurement in evaluation of subtle, "higher-order" visual abnormalities.
Historically, optometrists and ophthalmologists have focused on the two most prominent causes of vision problems from out-of-focus images: spherical errors and astigmatism. However, there are a wide range of subtle, "higher-order" errors that can affect not only the clarity of a patient's vision but also the doctor's view as he or she examines the back of the eye.
"In the past two decades, optometry and ophthalmology researchers have borrowed techniques for measuring and correcting these higher-order abnormalities," explains Anthony Adams, OD, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Optometry and Vision Science. "Astronomers already used these techniques to enable a clear telescopic view of planets and stars, undistorted by the focusing aberrations resulting from the earth's atmosphere."
Dr Thibos writes, "Our change in mind-set engendered by wavefront concepts has the power to alter our way of thinking about many clinical issues that are fundamentally optical in nature." He summarizes key principles of wavefront optics and their clinical applications to vision correction. Dr Thibos foresees important uses such as monitoring changes in optical quality in eyes with deterioration of the tear film (eg, causing dry eyes), assessing the outcomes of advanced vision-correcting (refractive) therapies, and tracking the progression of visual abnormalities in growing eyes.