An iPhone app could help track diabetic eye disease

Diabetic retinopathy, a serious eye disease that is caused by elevated blood glucose levels, can lead to vision loss and blindness.

Making the matter more complicated, monitoring the disease typically requires specialized equipment that is only available in clinical settings.

A new smartphone-based tool, however, might offer an alternative method that could service patients who live in isolated or low-income communities.

D-Eye

As a recent study released at the American Academy of Opthalmology's annual meeting reports, the "D-Eye" is a small optical adapter that can be magnetically attached to an iPhone 5, creating a phone-based ophthalmoscope.

Using this in conjunction with a slit-lamp biomicroscope, dilated retinal digital imaging can be performed.

The study tested the technology on 120 patients with diabetes who were due for a routine eye exam.

The smartphone method was found to produce results that matched the traditional method in 85 percent of the eyes that were studied.

When judging the progression of eye disease, an agreement within one step (or grade of the disease progression) was found in 96.7 percent of the eyes.

Given the encouraging results, researchers are hopeful that, with more testing, the phone-based method could be useful in communities where testing is performed rarely or not at all.

"Using the iPhone method is thousands of dollars cheaper than using traditional equipment," said lead researcher Andrea Russo, M.D. "The affordability of this option could make it much easier to bring eye care to non-hospital remote or rural settings, which often lack ophthalmic medical personnel."

Source: American Academy of OPhthalmology

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