British researchers have come up with an app that uses a smartphone to scan patients' eyes for cataracts and other diseases.
"It could be potentially a game changer in terms of making eye care more accessible," said Dr. Matthew Burton, and eye specialist.
The portable eye examination kit, or PEEK, performs a range of tests from measuring for eye glasses to detecting symptoms that could lead to blindness.
"The idea is that somebody with no training can point this to an eye and take accurate, high-resolution sweeps of somebody's retina," said Dr. Iain Livingstone of the Glasgow Centre for Ophthalmic Research.
We're used to exams in a doctor's office with equipment that can cost more than $100,000. Researchers say this new app can do the same work on a phone that costs just a couple of hundred dollars.
Researchers are already using the app in rural Kenya, where there aren't enough doctors or nurses. Health workers do the eye tests, and then email the results to doctors in the United Kingdom for diagnosis.
Researchers say they've tested a thousand Kenyans with the PEEK app. Ten percent had cataracts and received treatment; some regaining their sight as a result.
App developers say bringing eye exams and treatment to low-income countries could save millions from blindness.
The World Health Organization says there are about 285 million visually impaired people worldwide.
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