A photo of the inner eyelid of the eye taken with a simple smartphone could be enough to detect anemia, according to a new study. Details and explanations.

It, will, soon, be, possible, to, detect, anemia, with, simple, selfie

It would be possible to detect anemia using a simple photo from a smartphone. This is the conclusion of a new scientific study, published this July 14, 2021 in the journal Plos One.

Believing that there is a lack of practical and accessible tools to detect anemia, even though this pathology affects more than 25% of the world's population, a team of researchers from Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital (USA) set to work.

Previous studies have shown that the inside of the lower eyelid, an area called the palpebral conjunctiva, is paler in cases of anemia, characterized by low levels of hemoglobin (red blood cells) in the blood.

The researchers therefore developed an algorithm capable of identifying anemia by taking a photo of this specific part of the eye. To do this, they obtained smartphone images of the palpebral conjunctiva of 142 patients with a wide range of blood hemoglobin levels. The device linked the color of the conjunctiva to hemoglobin levels, after the color was compared to that of the surrounding skin and the white of the eye.

In a second step, the team tested their algorithm on photos collected from 202 new patients.

Results: The model developed detected anemia in 72.6% of cases, with an accuracy of 72.8% and a specificity of 72.5%. While skin tone did not change the results, image quality did have some effect.

For the researchers, these results suggest that a smartphone app could be used to screen for anemia in a telehealth or remote setting, when a blood test is not possible.

In the same way that screening tools and applications are being developed for the analysis of moles and other skin problems, one could imagine an application to detect anemia and then direct the user to medical advice adapted to the result, and to have more advanced analyses performed.