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Non-invasive eye checkup can detect anaemia: Study


Now an eye checkup using a non-invasive device may well help diagnose anaemia (low levels of haemoglobin in blood), especially during eye screening programmes in schools that mainly identify and treat refractive errors, a new study published in the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology has said. As anaemia is common among adolescent girls in India, this can not only help in its diagnosis and treatment but also in improving their overall health.

“There is fear of a needle prick which can often be a barrier for detecting anaemia, especially among school children,” Dr Parikshit Gogate, Pune-based consulting ophthalmologist and lead author of the study, titled ‘Eye screening can be used to perform anaemia screening and treatment in adolescent girls using ToucHb’, told The Indian Express.

“We used a non-invasive eye screening device (ToucHb), an instrument designed to measure the haemoglobin level in the body by looking at the colour of the capillaries in the conjunctiva,” Dr Gogate said.

TouchHb is a non-invasive anaemia screening instrument that works by illuminating and taking an image of the exposed conjunctiva of an individual with visible light. It is intended for screening purposes in primary health care settings. It was calibrated and validated in four institutes (Blood bank of civil hospital, Thane; Central hospital, Ulhasnagar; Seth G S Medical College, Mumbai and L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad) and won the Anjani Mashelkar Inclusive Innovation Award in 2018.

The device was used during secondary school eye screening and door-to-door eye screening to estimate haemoglobin concentration in the body. Around 1,511 girls in the age group 10-19 were examined as part of the study that was conducted in 2019-2020.

Dr Supriya Phadke and community eye care workers Parveen Shaikh and Shabana Shaikh conducted the screening while Rotary Club of Poona Downtown lent ToucHb to Community Eye Care Foundation.

“We found that at least 949 (62.8 per cent) had haemoglobin levels less than or equal to 9g/dL. During the door-to-door eye screening, 588 adolescent girls in the Phulenagar area also underwent anaemia screening. Of the 588 girls, 116 (19.7 per cent) had a haemoglobin level of 9 or less. We followed them up for three months and distributed tablets and anti‐helminthic drugs that had helped improve their haemoglobin levels,” Dr Gogate said.

According to the recent National Family Health Survey-5, at least 67 per cent children below five years (6-59 months) and 57 per cent women in the 15-49 age group have anaemia.

“While there are numerous programmes for mother and child care, there are very few for girls in the 12‐18 years age group, crucial years for their growth and development. Through ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ and the national programme for control of blindness, eye screening activity in schools has been carried out extensively for the past two decades,” Dr Gogate said.

“School teachers are reluctant to do anything invasive with the children, especially girls as it needs parental consent, which may be difficult to obtain. This study hence shows how measuring haemoglobin levels of adolescent girls can be done during an eye examination using the non-invasive device,” Dr Gogate said.





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