One of the disastrous effects of diabetes is the harm it can cause to the retina, with this degeneration of blood vessels in the eye now the leading cause of new blindness in working-age adults. An international team of scientists has developed technology that could pick up this so-called diabetic retinopathy in its early stages, using a standard smartphone as the basis for a low-cost diagnostic method that could greatly improve care in developing regions.
Diabetic retinopathy is said to affect between 40 and 45 percent of American diabetics, according to the National Eye Institute, with the condition characterized by leaky vessels that displace healthy ones and feed unwanted fluids into the retina, the photosensitive layer of the eye. Robbed of vital oxygen and nutrients, the retina then begins to deteriorate, which can lead to the partial loss of vision or total blindness.
“If such a retinopathy is recognized and treated in time, vision loss can often be prevented,” says Dr. Maximilian Wintergerst from the Department of Ophthalmology at the University Hospital Bonn. “An important aspect of therapy is better control of the diabetes; in addition, it is also possible to treat the undersupplied retina with laser light before further problems occur.”