Shedding new light on life with poor sight

Professor Konrad Pesudovs with Slavica Miskovich (left) and research fellow Dr Jyoti Khadka (right)
Professor Konrad Pesudovs with Slavica Miskovich (left) and research fellow Dr Jyoti Khadka (centre)

Cataracts, glaucoma and other eye diseases can have a negative and lasting impact on a person’s quality of life, with even the most menial of tasks becoming a serious challenge.

Accordingly, researchers from Flinders University are trying to determine exactly how eye disease affects quality of life in a bid to target and improve treatments.

Led by Professor Konrad Pesudovs, Head of Optometry and Vision Science, the team has just entered the first stage of a four-year research project to develop a better system for measuring the impact of eye disease using mathematical models and computer technology.

The study, funded through an $800,000 grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council, aims to improve the process for measuring eye-related quality of life (QoL) by taking a new approach called item banking and computer-adaptive testing.

An item bank is a large number of questions that are calibrated to optimise measurement efficiency.

Rather than asking a stream of generalised questions that are stored in the “bank”, Professor Pesudovs said the computer program would select the most relevant questions to ask a person based on their individual skills and abilities.

“In a normal questionnaire you’d ask questions to cover a range of difficulties but there’s no point asking a person who is able to drive at night whether they have trouble eating because at their level of functioning it’s clearly easy for them,” Professor Pesudovs said.

“So rather than wasting time with lots of different questions we’re using a computer to guide the process, starting in the middle with a question about an ability that’s not too easy or too difficult and moving away from the ones that are irrelevant.”

Professor Pesudovs said the team is now conducting interviews with a number of patients to determine the most suitable questions for the survey, with the responses eventually complied into an online test that can be used by doctors, nurses and other clinicians.

He said the overall aim of the project was to not only streamline and maximise the survey process but to spawn new ways of treating eye diseases, from a QoL perspective.

“It means we will be able to ask a minimal number of questions which is faster, more efficient and less obtrusive on the patient,” Professor Pesudovs said.

“Our tool will also drive new and existing treatments towards a QoL approach rather than just a clinical measure, such as an eye chart. While an eye chart tells you what people see, it’s far more valuable to have an effective questionnaire that tells you how people see.”

The research is being conducted in Flinders new Department of Optometry and Vision Science – the first optometry research and learning centre to be established outside of the eastern states.

Anyone who is over the age of 18 with an eye problem, including wearing glasses, and is interested in taking part in the research can contact Flinders research assistant Ms Slavica Miskovich on (08) 8204 6122.

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