The International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) has just created a technology capable of detecting diabetic retinopathy (DR) in patients. Company executives hope this new visual analytics technology will help doctors diagnose patients with this potentially blinding eye disease as early as possible.
IBM's eye test takes around 20 seconds to fully complete. The visual analytics technology does a thorough scan of the patient's eyes and locates various lesions around the retina with great accuracy. Since this test takes such a short amount of time, it could help eye doctors see even more patients. As of today, IBM's DR detection technology has an impressive 86 percent accuracy rate.
Eye doctors screening for DR need to look at each patient manually nowadays. This process takes a great deal of time, effort, and money. IBM believes its technology could help reduce all three of these factors.
Researchers behind this technology used two methods of disease detection to get optimal results. The two methods used include looking at convolutional neural networks and incorporating a dictionary-based learning of typical DR pathologies.
Doctors often class DR scans into five levels. These levels range from no DR to proliferative DR. The middle three categories include mild, moderate, and severe.
An eye doctor determines what stage a diabetic's eyes are at mainly by looking for lesions around the retina. Another telling sign of DR is damage to blood vessels near a person's retina.
The IBM team behind this technology presented their findings in Melbourne, Australia, at the 2017 IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging. This event was held between April 18th and the 21st.
This isn't the first time IBM has explored the possibilities of using the latest in analytics to diagnose an eye disease. The IBM Research department has been using deep learning technologies as well as image analytics to help eye doctors scan for eye diseases like glaucoma. IBM has also been using various innovations in cognitive technology to help detect life-threatening diseases like lung cancer and melanoma.
What makes DR so tricky to detect is that it often doesn't present symptoms until it's too late for doctors to intervene. This is why all eye doctors recommend diabetics get eye exams at least once a year.
The first symptoms a person with DR will most likely notice include blurry vision, dark spots, floaters, and a loss of central vision. A few treatment options your doctor could use to halt the progress of DR include laser surgery, a vitrectomy, and blood vessel growth inhibitors.