27.04.2017

Red Colour Channel Eye Scans Can Help Detect Diabetes-Related Eye Diseases

Eye doctors might be able to better detect diabetic eye diseases in minority patients by separating out red colour channels in eye scans. That's according to a brand new study published by the American Academy of Optometry.

Mastour A. Alhamami, a professor at Indiana University School of Optometry, was the head researcher on this project. Researchers specifically looked into whether or not using red reflected light could better detect the eye disease known as diabetic macular edema.

90 percent of patients involved in this study identified as racial/ethnic minorities, with only 10 percent identifying as non-Hispanic white. Most of the patients in this survey didn't have the health coverage to afford a yearly eye scan. All in all, 2,047 adult diabetic patients were involved in this study.

After looking at all the photographs, doctors discovered 148 patients had macular edema. 13 of these 148 patients had what's known as a "cystoid" pattern of macular edema. Researchers took all the standard colour fundus photos from these patients and put them under both red and green colour channels.

100 percent of the patients with cystoid macular edema were detected by separating out red-channels. However, five of the cystoid patterns weren't visible at all in pictures using green-channels. Also, researchers noted that all of the macular cysts in red-channel photos appeared clearer and larger than in green-channel photos.

Professors involved in this study are hopeful their research will lead more optometrists to use red-channel techniques in eye screenings for diabetics in the future. In particular, researchers believe this strategy should be used to help detect macular edema in minority groups. This is mainly due to the fact that minority groups have darker-coloured fundi which tends to appear clearer on red-channel scans.

Professor Alhamami told reporters that using red-channel images will be an important strategy in the future of quality eye care. As Dr. Alhamami put it, "Cysts may be under-detected with the present fundus camera methods, particularly when short-wavelength light is emphasized on patients with dark fundi." In case you weren't aware, green lights are short-wavelength, whereas red lights are long-wavelength.

Most doctors nowadays use standard colour fundus technology to detect diabetic eye diseases. Dr. Alhamami's latest research shows eye doctors just how powerful adding a simple red-channel colour separation test can be for addressing the needs of under-served communities.

All primary care physicians agree that diabetics should get their eyes screened annually to detect potentially serious eye complications.

Macular edema is caused by a buildup of fluid in the macula, which is located in the middle of the retina. This build-up slowly causes the macula to get extremely thick, which then leads to blurry vision. A few treatment options for macular edema include steroidal drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and intravitreal injections. Macular edema now affects about 21 million people around the world.

Alhamami's test was officially published in the February edition of the journal Optometry and Vision Science. This study was entitled, "Comparison of Cysts in Red and Green Images for Diabetic Macular Edema."


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