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Ophthalmology:

Photonics Spectra
Aug 1998
Photonic Therapies Mature; New Diagnostics Emerge

Kevin Robinson, Senior News Editor

Because it is photonic, the human eye was naturally one of the earliest places for photonics technology to intersect with medicine. Even today, photonics fills much of an ophthalmologist's tool kit. Light has treated a variety of eye-related maladies since before the invention of the laser, which improved many of the treatments and opened the door to many more. Several laser wavelengths help treat glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, retinal breaks and other eye disorders. In addition, laser procedures can correct vision problems such as near-sightedness by reshaping the cornea.
The market for ophthalmic lasers is stable. Researchers and commercial manufacturers are creating new devices, and debate continues about the appropriate wavelengths for particular applications. But sales in this area tend to be repeat business or upgrades of older laser systems.
As the market for ophthalmic laser treatments matures, clinicians say that it is time for researchers and manufacturers to turn their attention to improving diagnostic capabilities. Although some expressed reservations about the affect of managed care on reimbursement for new tests, the need for breakthroughs in clinical diagnostics remains a relatively untapped area for photonic research and development.


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