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Research: Mobile App Can Help Detect Early Signs of Glaucoma

October 20, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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A mobile health (mHealth) app can help clinicians detect early signs of glaucoma, according to new research.

A team of researchers, from the University of Iowa, the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Michigan and the Tilganga Eye Institute in Nepal, used a peripheral vision assessment app to screen approximately 200 patients in Nepal for glaucoma using an iPad. They say that the results show promise for screening populations that have limited or no access to traditional eye care and certain ethnic groups that have a high risk of developing the disease.

The app, Visual Fields Easy, simulates a visual field test on an iPad. These kinds of tests can help early diagnosis of glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness worldwide.

The researchers divided 400 patients into two categories. Half were healthy "control" eyes and the other half were eyes with glaucoma. They compared the results to the traditional industry standard visual field test, known as the Humphrey SITA Standard 24-2, and found that the two tests agreed between 51-79 percent of the time. The researchers say that the results were not strong enough to support using the method for screening general populations, the researchers believe that conducting screenings using a tablet can be an effective initial screening tool for high-risk groups, such as patients in developing nations.

"Visual field testing equipment is neither portable nor affordable to some populations around the world, limiting entire regions from accessing health and eye care," stated Chris A. Johnson, Ph.D., lead researcher and director of the Visual Field Reading Center at the University of Iowa. "Although not perfect, the tablet glaucoma screening method could make a significant difference in remote locations where populations would not otherwise receive screening at all."

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