14.09.2013

The mobile optometrist: Examining your Eyes with Apps

The mobile optometrist: Examining your Eyes with Apps

Being able to see an optometrist on a regular basis is a privilege to those of us who live in the first world: For us, taking care of our eyesight is not too complicated, but there are 285 million people worldwide with sight problems, 39 million of them being completely blind. But the most impressive facts are that 80% of blindnesses could be avoided and that 90% of the blind live in poor countries.

Like in many other health fields, there a lot of people working hard to keep as many people as possible from having sight problems that could be avoided; and now their job will get a lot easier thanks to Peek –Portable Eye Examination Kit-, a mobile application converting almost any smartphone into a complete diagnostics tool. You do not need to buy any costly equipment and it allows you to examine your eyes anywhere and at any time.

Among the app features are geotagging, in order to locate the patients more easily. Their personal data is also collected by the app; it features a number of different visual tests which include features like: field of view, visual acuity, color vision, contrast, lens image for cataract patients, retina image and graded image. The developers continue to work on the project including more tests like an automated refractor, frontal eye image and a additional tools for pediatric examinations.

All these features work with the smartphone camera while the eye fundus is illuminated by its LED flash. The person conducting the examination can analyze the patient’s vision through the smartphone’s screen.

Right now, Peek is being tested in Kenia where more than 5.000 patients have been examined and about 1.000 have already received treatment.

Doctors and developers are making great efforts to expand the capacities of smartphone as diagnostic tools little by little. This field is known as mHealth, where we also find help measuring of glucose levels in the blood, heart rate, oxygen levels or even applications that allow you to scan your body for moles with a risk to develop cancer.

The mobile phone will not become your doctor. You will always need a skilled professional to interpret these measurements, make the right diagnosis and prescribe the corresponding treatment, but it is obvious that it will reduce costs and it will make advanced medicine reach regions of the world which could not be accessed before.