High blood sugar can damage tiny blood vessels at the back of the eye. Sometimes, tiny bulges protrude from the blood vessels, leaking fluid and blood into the retina. This fluid can cause swelling or oedema in an area of the retina that allows us to see clearly. At first, diabetic retinopathy may cause no symptoms or only mild vision problems. Eventually, it can cause blindness.Ophthalmologists have effective treatments for diabetic retinopathy, but they work best when the condition detected early. That’s why ophthalmologists recommend patients be screened every year.
A system called EyeArt has shown promise in earlier studies. It was used to screen a total of 893 patients with diabetes at 15 different medical locations. Results were then reviewed for clinical accuracy by certified graders.
Using only undilated images (patients’ pupils were not dilated), the EyeArt system’s sensitivity was 95.5 per cent, and specificity was 86%.
Only a small fraction of eyes required dilation to achieve an image good enough to be graded. When including these additional patients in the analysis, the sensitivity remained the same, specificity improved to 86.5%, and gradability improved to 97.4%.
More than 90% of the eyes identified as positive by the EyeArt system had diabetic retinopathy or another eye disease per the reference standard.