Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality can be applied in multiple different industries for all kinds of purposes. Healthcare is certainly one of the fields where these technologies can solve multiple problems in a variety of ways.
Here are just a few applications where VR technology has already been successfully utilized in recent years: mental illnesses treatment, pain management, physical therapy, surgery simulations, diagnostics, and medical education.
VR in Ophthalmology
Using VR in ophthalmology is one of the less-known applications when it comes to healthcare. The way it can be applied to this field may also not be that obvious for the majority of people.
Ophthalmology is a branch of medicine dealing with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of eye and visual system disorders. Virtual Reality can make a difference when applied to both, diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases. In fact, it already does.
VR for Hemianopsia Diagnosis and Treatment
For example, VR can be a powerful tool in the treatment of hemianopsia, or hemianopia, a condition where a person experiences loss of vision or blindness (anopsia) in half the visual field. In other words, people suffering from hemianopsia can only see one side, right or left, of the visual world in each eye. Hemianopsia is commonly caused by a stroke, brain tumor or trauma.
When it comes to testing a patient’s visual area, VR offers a way to diagnose patients who may be suffering from hemianopsia more effectively, and without the need of using traditional vision exam machines. The majority of these are quite expensive and have a number of other weaknesses, such as poor mobility and, in some cases, a significant margin of error.
Here’s an example of how VR for testing vision is applied to conduct quick and effective tests for hemianopsia: a patient wearing a VR headset sees a circular plane with a marker in the middle that one has to focus on for the whole time during the test. Lights will randomly appear all over the circular plane, one light at a time. Each light will have a low brightness at first, but will increase over time until it is seen, or its duration is over. Every time the patient spots a light, he has to press a button on the controller, telling the system that the light has been seen.
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VR to Improve Impaired Vision
As another example, VR can provide ophthalmologists and their patients with a unique opportunity to train and improve impaired vision. Patients exercising their impaired vision areas with VR have shown a steady and consistent improvement of the peripheral vision.
Besides the above-mentioned therapeutic effect, VR makes this kind of training more convenient and fun for patients. They can exercise at home, without the need to visit an ophthalmological clinic, and the training has a lot more gamified approach, turning a boring therapeutic procedure into exciting and relaxing activity. As a result, the patient’s brain manages to better recognize the stimuli in the areas affected by the disease, which results in faster recovery.