The Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have developed an app to increase access to vision tests.
Launched on World Sight Day by WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHOEyes is an app that allows anybody with a smartphone to test their vision and learn about protecting their eyes.
According to the organisations, the app is designed to reduce preventable vision loss worldwide and is intended to be complementary to regular vision tests to help people identify potential problems early so they can seek professional care.
“Globally, more than one billion people have a vision impairment that could be easily addressed with surgery or a simple pair of glasses,” said Tedros.
“Regular check-ups can ensure that eye disease is detected early, and vision loss is prevented.”
WHOEyes can be used by anyone but it’s expected to be particularly useful in countries with limited access to eyecare services.
Dr Lisa Zhuoting Zhu, principal investigator of ophthalmic epidemiology at CERA, said WHOEyes will provide teachers in remote schools with an easy way of spotting vision issues that would affect a child’s education.
“If vision loss is observed among the children, they can be referred to an eye specialist to check whether they have refractive errors such as lazy eye or severe cases of short or far sightedness,” she said.
Zhu said the app will also be helpful for older people and those living in remote and rural areas without access to eye specialists.
“If people can test their visual acuity at home, it will mean they won’t have to travel unnecessarily,” she said.
Refractive errors aren’t the only cause of vision loss, and Zhu said WHOEyes could also be an effective triage tool for eye disease.
“Often by the time people visit an eye specialist, they may already have the later stages of eye disease,” she said.
“By testing vision annually or every six months, you can notice smaller changes in vision and detect any issues earlier.”
How it works
According to a statement by the organisations, WHOEyes is available to all smartphone users to test their visual acuity, allows for testing of short and long-distance vision and is available in six languages.
The app automatically detects the distance between the smartphone and user to ensure tests are accurate. Depending on the user’s results, the app may recommend seeking an eyecare professional for further testing.
Zhu suggested people using the app track their results.
“Next time you take the test, you can compare your results with your previous one,” she said. “It’s best to track your results annually or every six months.”
According to a statement, WHOEyes is suitable for anyone aged over eight years and can be downloaded for Android via Google Play and iPhone via the App Store.