Hand-held eye exam

Finding an optician on the plains of the Serengeti is a daunting task, but researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have come up with a way to turn anyone into an impromptu eye-doctor. A smartphone application called Peek, Portable Eye Examination Kit, utilizes the phone’s camera and can conduct visual and color field tests, lens imaging for cataracts, and retinal imaging, among other tests to detect sight impairments and diseases.

The application works by showing patients a series of letters, the same ones you see at any eye doctor, that progressively get smaller as the eye test continues, this is a basic vision test. Peek can also scan the back of the eye to test for retinal disease, to do this an attachment that comes with peak is affixed to the smartphone then the phone’s flashlight is utilized to illuminate the back of a patient’s eye, checking it for eye disease.

At the end of last year Peek began it’s clinical trials in Kenya, which led to over 1,000 people receiving eye care. However, the problem with many eye-diseases is early detection, and since 8/10 instances of blindness are avoidable, and 9/10 blind people live in the developing world, providing children with proper access to optical screenings is paramount.

Though clinical trials of Peek are still taking place, Peek researchers recently announced they will start training school teachers in Kitale, Kenya, one of Kenya’s most impoverished regions, to use Peek. 10 schools across Kitale will start using Peek before it expands to neighboring areas. Children diagnosed with eye disease or impairments will be sent to Kitale Eye Unit for treatment.

While some might think finding a smartphone on the Serengeti is as challenging as finding an optician, the fact is Africa is growing faster than any other region, experiencing year over year output growth of +5% for more than a decade now. Smartphone sales are also increasing, taking up 51% of all devices sold in Africa in 2013, and mobile connectivity and penetration are expected to climb even higher in the coming year. Africa is definitely in better shape than it was a decade ago and with the widespread use of Peek, hopefully will be a lot healthier too.

To find out more visit Peek’s website www.peekvision.org

Photo: Courtesy of Peek

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