Health And Wellness

New study shows how smartphones may help eyesight, not harm it

By Kiersten Willis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren for Hometown Hall 

Research has provided plenty of reasons why using smartphones is bad for you, including damage to eyesight. However, a new study reveals how the device might actually aid your vision’s health.

Scientists at England’s University of Birmingham recently discovered that smartphones could be used to prevent glaucoma blindness.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness, according to Glaucoma Research Foundation.

More than 3 million Americans are estimated to have the condition, but only half of those know they have it. The progressive vision condition particularly affects African Americans with it being 6 to 8 times more common in the community than it is among Caucasians. Additionally, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness among African Americans behind cataracts.

According to a press release from the school, it’s harder to find people who are at risk of developing glaucoma compared to other eye-related diseases. Glaucoma, which is a group of eye conditions that cause blindness, is linked with increased levels of intraocular pressure (IOP), which is the pressure inside the eye. The research notes that an accurate, non-invasive method to monitor someone’s IOP long-term would aid in significantly boosting the probability of them retaining their vision.

Experiments have successfully been conducted by University of Birmingham scientists who used soundwaves and an eye model to produce a mobile measurement method. Doing so, the press release noted, would detect rising IOP levels, which would lead to early diagnosis and treatment.

The scientists published the results in a research paper for the peer-reviewed journal, Engineering Reports.

“We discovered a relationship between the internal pressure of an object and its acoustic reflection coefficient,” Dr. Khamis Essa, study co-author and director of the Advanced Manufacturing Group at the University of Birmingham said in a statement, “With further investigation into eye geometry and how this affects the interaction with soundwaves, it is possible to use a smartphone to accurately measure IOP from the comfort of the user’s home.”

Currently, the most reliable method to measure IOP is applanation tonometry. This is when a patient has numbing drops applied to their eyes before non-toxic dye. However, it’s possible that measurement errors and other issues can be tied to this method.

In their conclusion, researchers noted that “in practice, the critical frequency value for human eyes must be determined through experimentation using a method similar to that completed in this report and analyzed for suitability.” That method involved using smartphones to measure soundwaves with the “Tone generator” app.