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Vision Apps: Can You Use Your iPhone To Detect Cataracts?

September 4, 2012

Researchers at MIT create iPhone app that helps to uncover cataract symptoms.

When apps for cell phones were first introduced, they were all about fun and games―simple puzzles to pass the time or even racing games that you could play alongside your friends. However, as smart phones became more and more popular, the app stores grew with them and introduced apps that could actually come in handy in your day-to-day life. For instance, apps that help you with your school studies, apps that help you get the most out of your phone battery, and even apps that help you answer your most pressing medical questions.

A while ago, we introduced to you some of our favorite vision cell phone apps to date: a vision accuracy test, a Save Your Vision app, a disposable contact scheduler, a LASIK surgery FAQ app and even a magnifying glass app for your phone. However, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)  have recently created an iPhone app centered around vision that will put all others to shame.

With this recent tool, smart phones are once again revolutionizing the way that we use modern medicine. Researchers at MIT have built a very useful medical add-on for the iPhone (and eventually many other smart devices) that can help to detect cataracts in patients.

The CATRA system, developed by the Camera Culture Media Lab at MIT, is an attachment that snaps on to the front of an iPhone and then uses the screen output to monitor and test for cataracts in patients’ eyes when they look into the device. The specialized software used is reported to provide a diagnosis within minutes and requires no training in order to use.

So how does the app work to uncover cataracts exactly? The CATRA software creates a map of cloudy areas of the eye by doing a simple vision test. These cloudy areas can indicate the onset of cataracts in their early stages.

As you know, a cataract is formed when proteins and fibers begin to clump together in the eye’s lens, creating a clouding of the vision and making it more and more difficult to focus light onto the eye’s retina―the light-sensitive tissue which sends images to our brains. Over time, cataracts can continue to cause vision to become blurry and dim, and may eventually interfere with daily activities.

Given the fact that cataracts is one of the leading cause of blindness in the world, this easy-to-use CATRA software could be very beneficial for developing nations without the resources of expensive equipment and in-depth exams.

To learn more about how CATRA works and receive more information about how it is helping to uncover the onset of cataracts within effected patients, be sure to visit the MIT website. You can also watch the video below which helps to give a more in-depth explanation of the research and technology behind the system:

What do you think about the growth in medical cell phone apps that help to uncover underlying vision problems? Do you think these applications could be the future of medicine? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!


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