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You Could Find Out if You Have Anemia Using Only a Smartphone Camera

For millions of Americans who may be suffering from anemia, getting a diagnosis can be a tricky process, which can include numerous blood tests and other invasive procedures to get answers. But what if all it took to find out if you had anemia was a selfie? That option may be available sooner than you think!

Anemia may be caused by a number of different factors, but one of the most common is low iron, which affects roughly 5.6 percent of Americans nationwide. When you’re anemic, your red blood cells have a tough time delivering oxygen to the rest of your cells all over your body. The result can make you feel sluggish and weak, and it can also lead to shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, cold extremities, and irregular heartbeats. If it’s left untreated over a longer period of time, it could eventually lead to death.

Now, scientists say they’ve developed a pain-free and much less invasive way to tell if someone likely has anemia. According to a study published in PLOS ONE, an image of the eye taken with a basic smartphone camera could be enough to determine if someone has anemia and requires treatment. Researchers previously found that something called the palpebral conjunctiva, a fancy term for the inside of a person’s lower eyelid, is often paler when that person has anemia. Based on that, they were able to isolate 142 images of people’s palpebral conjunctivas and apply an algorithm to them to see if it could predict which of those cases were people with anemia. So far, the model is over 72 percent accurate.

While scientists are still working on refining the model, it could be easy for a doctor in the near-future to diagnose someone with anemia without initial blood tests or an in-person visit, which many people don’t have access to right now. Plus, the sooner doctors are able to determine if someone is potentially anemic, the quicker they can figure out a course of treatment and avoid its worse side effects. Sometimes technology really saves the day!

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