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Computers can effectively detect diabetes-related eye problems
Date:5/12/2010

People with diabetes have an increased risk of blindness, yet nearly half of the approximately 23 million Americans with diabetes do not get an annual eye exam to detect possible problems.

But it appears that cost-effective computerized systems to detect early eye problems related to diabetes can help meet the screening need, University of Iowa analysis shows.

The UI team compared the ability of two sets of computer programs to detect possible eye problems in 16,670 people with diabetes. Each of the two programs (known as EyeCheck and Challenge 2009) are based on technology developed at the UI and performed equally well, achieving the maximum accuracy theoretically expected. The study was published online April 16 by the journal Ophthalmology.

The systems require a trained technician to use a digital camera to take pictures of the retina, located inside the eye. The images are then transferred electronically to computers, which can automatically detect the small hemorrhages (internal bleeding) and signs of fluid that are hallmarks of diabetes damage.

"It is an important question: whether a computer can substitute for a human to detect the initial signs of diabetic eye disease," said Michael Abrmoff, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and an ophthalmologist with UI Hospitals and Clinics.

"Our analysis shows that the computerized programs appear to be as accurate and thorough as a highly trained expert in determining if these initial signs of an eye problem are developing in someone with diabetes. Once the initial problems are found, an eye specialist can treat the patient," added Abrmoff, who also is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering in the UI College of Engineering.

To explain the system's efficiency, Abrmoff said that among a group of 100 patients with diabetes, 10 people would
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Contact: Becky Soglin
becky-soglin@uiowa.edu
319-356-7127
University of Iowa - Health Science
Source:Eurekalert

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