As the world’s most popular smartphone brand, Apple has dominated the technology market since its advent in 1976 but these intuitive devices could be of a use the designers didn’t originally expect. The number of iPhone apps available to download is already in the thousands but this figure is rapidly growing as developers explore all-new ways to boost the phones’ inbuilt technology. When it comes to photography, it is already possible to make digital enhancements and customisations, upload to social media sites and even add colour-blind filters. But new research suggests that iPhone photography app, Filmic Pro could be used for a more worthwhile purpose: diagnosing eye disease in patients.
Researchers from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School have been working to improve the way eye examinations are currently carried out. An essential part of the eye examination is ‘retinal imaging’ which involves examining an image of the retina to look for abnormalities which could indicate eye disease and other eye medical conditions. The common way of examining the eye’s retina used by ophthalmologists is with a special ‘fundus’ camera which costs upwards of $10,000. Naturally, this is out of reach for many small ophthalmology practices and is particularly inaccessible in poorer countries. The team then looked at the possibility of using a cheaper camera to carry out eye examinations as an alternative. They found that the Apple iPhone’s inbuilt camera alone was not of sufficient quality for retinal photography because it does not allow for independent control of the lens focus and exposure, meaning images could be over-exposed with glare. However, the team found that when the iPhone 4 or iPhone 5 was used to download the Filmic Pro app, it became possible to independently alter settings during filming, offering higher quality imaging. The researchers tested the camera with a 20D lens, with or without a Koeppe lens (a unique dome-shaped lens used by ophthalmologists to get a closer view of individual parts of the eye). The tests offered positive results and it was found that the iPhone camera could work effectively as an ophthalmoscope to provide high quality footage of the eye from which the team could extract still images. The research was carried out on child patients under anaesthesia, awake adults, and rabbits in order to further explore the feasibility of using the device for future examinations. It was found that it offers a more comfortable experience for patients because the light intensity is much lower than that of current fundus cameras. The cameras have already been successfully used in emergency departments to carry out examinations, partly due to the portable, easy-to-use nature of the iPhone device. Ophthalmology students have taken well to the new technology and have been quickly able to learn how to use the devices. Future developments in the iPhone are hoped to offer even higher quality photography with higher resolutions and improved image stabilization which could, in turn, improve the reliability of the iPhone as an eye examination tool. It is also hoped that the portability of smartphone cameras could make it easier to offer medical diagnoses in poorer rural areas such as Uganda, Africa. In 2011, a team of Dutch Researchers explored the possibility of offering remote diagnosis in Uganda using just a 2-megapixel camera. The team found that even this comparatively poor quality camera could be used to capture a clear image which could be instantly uploaded to a website or sent via email for further analysis by a specialist. This holds vast opportunities for the future of eye care in poverty-stricken areas in which the number of eye specialists may be limited. Victoria keeps up-to-date with new developments in the optics industry for prescription glasses retailer, DirectSight.
Posted By :Pace Wisdom