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Vision Apps: Good or Bad?

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Woman operating touch screen phone


Digital technology has revolutionized the world. There are mobile apps designed to do almost anything, including things related to your vision! There are a number of vision apps on the market today for both iPhone and Android that are designed to assist the visually-impaired and their caretakers, but some may be better-suited for you than others. Michael Mendoza, O.D. at EYE-Q Vision Care sat down to answer some questions about vision apps. Check out the interview here, and read the questions and answers below to see what apps may be helpful for you and your family! 

What types of visual aid apps are available and what do they claim to do?

• They range from apps that use crowd sourcing to connect the blind or visually impaired with volunteers from around the world to apps that offer home vision screenings to apps that magnify fine print to apps that monitor medication. Some apps provide a valuable resource for the visually impaired, and some should be avoided at all costs.

What are some apps that are beneficial to the visually-impaired?

• Contact Lens Tracker is a quick and efficient way to keep track of reusable contact lenses usage. The app helps patients with contact lens compliance.

• Magnifying Glass with Light transforms your iPhone or iPad into a full screen, lighted magnifying glass. This app is okay in a pinch, but it’s not hugely different from opening the camera and using zoom.

• Be My Eyes uses crowd sourcing and is a great app for people with low vision, allowing them to connect with sighted people around the world via video chat.

What apps would you consider beneficial for caregivers?

• My Eye Drops was designed to help glaucoma and cornea patients who are required to use eye drops as a part of their treatment. The app helps patients and caregivers with the application and monitoring of eye drops/medication. The app can help with compliance, but might be a little confusing for the non tech-savvy, which is why it might be better for caregivers.

• VisionSim is a vision simulation app designed to give the family or friends of a patient with degenerative eye disease an idea of how the disease affects their loved one.

What types of apps should you stay away from?

• There is no replacement for a comprehensive eye exam with a vision expert. An app claiming to do so should never be used as a replacement for an eye exam. The main problems with these apps are that they are dependent on the user using them correctly, and they’re focused on screening for VISION problems as opposed to ocular HEALTH.

Are there any specific vision apps that are controversial?

• Eye exam/vision screening apps are very concerning and are very controversial right now. Any app that touts itself as a replacement for an eye exam should be avoided.

• EyeXam and Vision Test are essentially the same type of “vision screening” app. Vision Test is easier to use, however, when someone fails the screening, there is no doctor referral as the app was not designed to use in the U.S. EyeXam has a great referral option but the screening tests are not as reliable as Vision Test.

• Opternative is the most controversial; it’s marketed to consumers as an online eye exam. It is not FDA-approved, yet patients are given a prescription for glasses or contacts. The device relies on unproven technology that has never been shown to be effective in accurately determining a lens prescription. Use of the device could result in the forgoing of a full eye exam by an optometrist and potentially lead to a delay in treatment of potentially sight-threatening conditions. The American Optometric Association has filed an expansive complaint against Opternative with the FDA, so definitely avoid it.

Are there any apps that you recommend to patients?

• There are a lot of patients who complain about eye strain from working long hours on the computer. This is called Computer Vision Syndrome. The Save My Eyes app is a continuous timer that abides by the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break to look at something 20 feet away. The app buzzes every 20 minutes to remind you to take a brief break from your work and rest your eyes.

So what advice do you give your patients about vision apps?

• Most vision apps are pretty harmless, but if you are having doubts about your own or a family member’s vision health, the best thing to do is to book an appointment with an optometrist.