Turns out, smartphones can do much more than count your daily steps to help you keep track of your fitness. Recent research shows that a standard-quality camera on your phone, backed with a suitable algorithm, can detect if you have a condition called anemia.
In the study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers used the color of a person’s lower eyelid (palpebral conjunctiva) to determine their hemoglobin (Hgb) levels.
Since a low hemoglobin concentration makes for lighter red blood cells, this condition leaves your skin looking paler than usual. Hence, the principle is simple — the paler this part of the eyelid is, the higher the chances that the person is suffering from anemia.
We know what you’re thinking — how will your phone recognize your normal skin tone to discern if it’s paler than usual? Well, the scientific teams from Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital developed a comparative scale model to tackle this issue.
They used data from 344 study participants – 142 for the initial learning set of images, and another 202 to validate the tool’s accuracy – with different blood hemoglobin levels and created an anemia detection tool which detected anemia correctly in 72.6% of cases!
But why is detecting anemia so essential?
Anemia can have severe implications for your health. It can cause fatigue, susceptibility to infection, arrhythmia, and even heart failure. But also, it can cause complications during pregnancy and much more.
Different types of anemia are still plaguing 33% of the world’s population. The Western world faces mostly iron deficiency anemia, due to caffeine consumption, fast-food-based nutrition, and other poor lifestyle choices.
Nevertheless, one thing is certain – the time you feel the telltale signs of anemia, like fatigue, headaches, dizziness, or shortness of breath, as well as difficulty maintaining your focus, you can turn to your phone for a diagnosis.