Amazing App Uses Your Smartphone’s Camera and Flashlight to Detect Diabetes

By Kehl Bayern / March 8, 2019

Type 2 diabetes and heart disease are two of the biggest killers in the industrialized world.

Blame a diet high in sugar and processed garbage or a lack of physical activity – whatever the cause, the problem isn’t going away any time soon.

Image via Pixabay from Pexels.com.

That’s why early diagnosis is key to providing people with a better health and long term quality of life.

A new app hopes to help people do just that by using your smartphone’s camera and flashlight to diagnose type 2 diabetes.

A team of researchers at the University of California, San Diego wanted to see if an app could detect changes in blood flow using a smartphone camera and photoplethysmography (PPG) signal.

Post-doctoral fellow at UCSF Medical Center and lead author for the study Robert Avram, MD, said of the app, “It's a measurement that's already readily obtained from smartphones and wearable devices to track heart rate…We've demonstrated that by using deep learning and a smartphone camera alone, we can also detect vascular changes associated with diabetes and with reasonable discrimination.”

Shining a flashlight on a person’s fingertip can reveal changes in blood volume flowing through because, as the heart beats, it expands the blood vessels which increases the amount of light from the smartphone’s flashlight reflected back into the camera’s optical sensor.

Why this is such a breakthrough is explained quite well by the study’s lead author, Dr. Avram: “Diabetes can be asymptomatic for a long period of time, yet adverse vascular changes still occur silently, which can lead to cardiovascular complications. This makes it especially important for us to examine low-cost, noninvasive opportunities that make it easy to screen millions of people. To date, a noninvasive, widely-scalable screening tool for diabetes has been lacking…Based on our findings, this strategy could become a low-cost way to screen for diabetes at home because it can be derived from any optical system that has a camera and a flashlight, and most people have a smartphone.”

According to Medical Express, the app is in the testing phases now before it can be rolled out to a wider consumer audience but it holds a lot of promise.


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About the author

Kehl Bayern

Kehl Bayern is our staff news writer and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing. In terms of photography, he is interested in architecture and modern design. Kehl Bayern is also the author of science fiction thriller Animus Proxy. He is based in Boston, Massachusetts and studied politics at the University of Virginia and, later, Harvard University for graduate school. He spends much of his time traveling up and down the east coast of the United States. You can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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