New technology could use mobile phones to detect early signs of blindness caused by diabetes

A devastating consequence of diabetes is damage to the retina, and the degeneration of blood vessels in the eye is now the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults,media reported. A team of international scientists has developed a technique that can detect it in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy.

New technology could use mobile phones to detect early signs of blindness caused by diabetes

This method of using standard smartphones as a basis for low-cost diagnosticmethods can greatly improve the medical situation in developing regions.

According to the U.S. National Eye Institute, 40 to 45 percent of patients with diabetic retinopathy in the U.S. become patients, characterized by a leak of blood vessels that cause healthy blood vessels to be replaced, after which excess fluid enters the retina (the photosensitive layer of the eye). Once important oxygen and nutrients are taken away, the retina begins to deteriorate, leading to partial or complete blindness.

Dr Maximilian Wintergerst, of Ophthalmology at the University Hospital of Bonn, said: “If this retinopathy is identified and treated in a timely manner, vision loss can usually be prevented. An important aspect of treatment is better control of diabetes, and it is possible to treat the undersupplied retina with lasers before further problems occur. “

Wintergerst and his colleagues at the University Hospital of Bonn worked with researchers at Sankara Eye Hospital in Bangalore, India, to explore ways to diagnose diabetic retinopathy earlier in developing countries, where health systems often do not have the capacity to widely screen for diabetic retinopathy.

Like many researchers looking for low-cost medical diagnostic solutions, the team has turned to modern smartphones. The researchers experimented with four different methods, using the device’s built-in camera to image the retina and found that one of them produced the clearest imageusing using a special adapter.

“In our tests, the best results were obtained through a lens adapter attached to a smartphone,” Wintergerst said. It can detect almost 80% of the retina’s changing eyes, even in the early stages. (Also) can even be 100 percent diagnosed with late-stage injury. “

The technique allows trained optometrists to perform an average of one to two minutes by imaging the back of the eye and recording changes in the retina.

Dr Robert Finger, from the University Hospital of Bonn, said: “This means that the test can also be carried out by trained laymen. The images are then sent over the Internet to an ophthalmologist for diagnosis. “

Currently, the team is developing an application that could facilitate such telemedicine. The app will store patient images and doctor’s analysis results in encrypted form, but with further work, the team hopes that AI will be an automatic first step in this diagnostic effort, which is to detect pathological changes in diabetic retinopathy.

The study has now been published in The Journal of Ces.