HEALTH

Diabetic eye disease may be curbed with help of computer programs

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK Computerized systems may be able to detect early eye problems related to diabetes, according to a University of Iowa analysis.

The analysis, which was published in the Apr. 16 issue of Ophthalmology, found that computer programs may aid in finding diabetic eye disease and related issues. By analyzing 16,670 people with diabetes with two programs — EyeCheck and Challenge 2009 — a trained technician would use a digital camera to take pictures of the retina, then electronically transfer the images 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 Abramoff, 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."

The researchers said that while the programs significantly could reduce the number of patients with diabetic-related vision problems, the images were prescreened to ensure the computers could analyze them and the computer-based assessments were compared with assessments done by only one human reader at a time, which may not reflect a comparison to assessments by multiple readers.

 

"A computer alone will never be a substitute for the care of a good doctor, but it’s exciting to think that computers can be partners in finding the patients at risk of blindness who should see an ophthalmologist," said study author Vinit Mahajan, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences.

 

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AAFA releases ‘Allergy Capitals’ list

BY Michael Johnsen

LANDOVER, Md. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America on Thursday released its new list of the 100 “Allergy Capitals” (www.AllergyCapitals.com), naming Knoxville, Tenn. as the most challenging place to live with spring allergies this year due to high pollen counts, high use of allergy medications by patients and too few allergists to treat the burgeoning allergy population.

 

This year, the foundation has teamed up with Lowe’s Home Improvement to educate Americans about the importance of indoor air quality and how a few simple steps can help you reduce your exposure to allergens and irritants at home.

 

 

“Outdoors in spring is tough so some patients think they can stay indoors to remain safe, but you should be just as concerned about indoor air quality,” stated Beth Corn, assistant professor of medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and past president of the New York Allergy and Asthma Society.

 

 

Experts said that reduction of allergens inside the home is an important part of asthma and allergy prevention, the AAFA stated, especially as Americans spend an estimated $10 billion annually on such household products as vacuum cleaners, air cleaners, bedding, toys and flooring.

 

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PharmaSmart’s president, SVP join pharmacy school’s advisory council

BY Alaric DeArment

ROCHESTER, N.Y. Two executives from blood pressure screening equipment manufacturer PharmaSmart International have joined the Wegmans School of Pharmacy’s advisory council, PharmaSmart said Wednesday.

President Fred Sarkis and SVP and general manager Ashton Maaraba will work with the council to help plan and initiate new academic and extracurricular opportunities for the school and began their term by donating blood pressure screening equipment and Web services to the school for students to use in their studies.

“Ashton and I are very excited to become part of this prestigious committee, and we hope that our grant and continuing support make a difference for the students, faculty and the School of Pharmacy,” Sarkis said.

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