Smartphones Used to Detect Eye Problems


Historically, eye diseases have been difficult to diagnose in people who don’t have easy access to trained eye doctors and specialized medical diagnostic equipment, such as those living a long distance from medical facilities or in rural areas. But that trend has changed. Health professionals now can use their smartphones to help detect eye problems.

Many vision problems are preventable

Eye experts estimate that worldwide over 246 million people have low vision, and 39 million are blind. About 80 percent of those who are blind live in low-income countries. Many causes of blindness are preventable or curable.

New applications

Medical professionals are using smartphone tools and apps to assist in identifying potential vision problems and eye diseases, such as diabetes retinopathy, glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, low vision or optic nerve damage.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology provides an example of how new smartphone technology is making a difference. Healthcare workers can use an optical adapter with a magnetic attachment to turn a smartphone into an ophthalmoscope to perform dilated retinal digital imaging on diabetic patients. In comparison studies of the ophthalmoscope vs. traditional sophisticated eye equipment, the diagnostic accuracy was exactly the same for 85 percent of patients, and near-exact in 97 percent of the eyes examined. In cases where the diagnosis was different, doctors determined that the disease or vision problem was at an advanced stage or the patient’s pupil size impacted the effectiveness of the test.

Lower cost

This new technology is providing patients with access to low-cost diagnosis of vision problem and diseases. A health organization that works in developing countries explains that instead of needing numerous medical professionals and expensive equipment to examine people’s eyes, one trained healthcare worker riding a bicycle can travel into remote areas of these countries to check and diagnose vision issues. The test results are archived and geo-tagged with the patient’s GPS location, making it easier to track diagnosis, provide follow-up care and evaluate the effectiveness of treatments.