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What you need to know

  • Report in Science Advances shows app White Eye Detector can detect disease more than a year before doctors .
  • Tests conducted on 53,000 photos of 40 children.
  • On average, app detected disease 1.3 years before diagnosis.

A report published in journal Science Advances has revealed that Smartphone app White Eye Detector is capable of spotting eye diseases more than one year before doctors can. The app was developed by Bryan Shaw, a professor at Baylor University, and can search all of the photos on your phone in order to detect faces with white eye. Otherwise known as "leukocoria", white eye can indicate several harmful conditions such as reinoblastoma (childhood cancer of the retina), retinopathy of prematurity, caracts and Coats disease.

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According to IEEE Spectrum

To test the system, the team ran nearly 53,000 photos of 40 children, half of whom had healthy eyes and the other half of whom had been diagnosed with a leukocoria-related eye disease. The photos of each child spanned from birth to several years old, allowing the system to pinpoint at what age the disease developed.

In 16 of the 20 children with disease, the app spotted leukocoria in photographs taken an average of 1.3 years before the child was diagnosed. Among the subset of children with unilateral retinoblastoma, the app caught white eye more than nine months, on average, before diagnosis—long enough to mean the difference between saving and losing the eye.

Whilst the software is useful for diagnosis of all ages, it is especially helpful when diagnosing the diseases in children and babies who may struggle to communicate problems with their vision.

The app is not FDA approved, and any kind of positive result does not constitute a diagnosis (something the developer is very keen to stress). However the app can detect white eye, allowing you to seek medical advice.