A two minute eye examination using a smartphone can detect early retinal changes in patients with diabetes, allowing treatment to commence, according to scientists from the University of Bonn and their colleagues from Sankara Eye Hospital Bangalore, India.
A study published in the journal Ophthalmology compared four different approaches aimed at enabling ophthalmoscopy with a standard mid-range smartphone.
Trained ophthalmic assistants from the Sankara Eye Hospital undertook the examinations which involved documenting changes in the retina by filming the back of the eye with a smartphone camera. Images were sent via internet to an ophthalmologist for diagnosis.
“The best result in our test was achieved by an adapter with an additional lens that is attached to the smartphone,” Dr Wintergerst reported. “It allowed almost 80% of eyes with any retinal changes to be detected, even in the early stages. Advanced damage could even be diagnosed 100% of the time.”
The researchers are currently developing an app that will make it possible to create an encrypted electronic patient file for each patient on the smartphones used for examination. This would store the images and findings of the doctor who reviewed them. Additionally, they’re working on an automatic pre-evaluation of the images using artificial intelligence.
The use of smartphones to detect retinal change would be particularly useful in developing and emerging countries where around eight out of 10 people with diabetes worldwide live. Poor access to medical resources in these countries means systematic retinal screening of people with diabetes is unusual. The technology would enable lay people to be trained to perform the test.