Recent studies are defining new strategy for screening diabetic retinopathy. The study used a non-mydriatic (pictures of the retina are taken without dilating drops) camera, a technician trained at looking at retinal photos and a retinal specialist.
During the study, a population of diabetics, with no or little insurance, were screened by obtaining a retinal photo. The photo was then reviewed by the technician. The same photo was then reviewed by a retinal specialist. The results of the technician were compared to the that of the retinal specialist.
The results indicated that this system was over 90% accurate in detecting the presence and absence of diabetic retinopathy. Previous studies used a series of 7 pictures and a reading center involving a retinal specialist. This protocol involves the use of a non-dilating camera, one photo and a technician, all aimed at saving time, maximizing efficiency of the specialist, but maintaining a high degree of specificity.
What does this mean? Keep in mind that this is a new screening strategy and not necessarily a new way to treat diabetic retinopathy. As the prevalence of diabetes continues to explode, the number of individuals developing diabetic retinopathy increases, too. The costs and burden to society from lost wages and medical care are enormous. Efficient screening methods should help alleviate the burden by earlier detection, more timely treatment and preserving vision. Earlier treatment means preserved vision to the patient, increased work productivity (patient stays as a member of the work force) and reduced health cost to society (early treatment much cheaper).
Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Ophthalmologist, Retinal Specialist