Google’s AI Reads Retinas to Prevent Blindness in Diabetics

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Google researchers have worked with doctors to develop an AI that can automatically identify diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause blindness among adults. Using deep learning—the same breed of AI that identifies faces, animals, and objects in pictures uploaded to Google’s online services—the system detects the condition by examining retinal photos. In a recent study, it succeeded at about the same rate as human opthamologists, according to a paper published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

But the idea behind this AI isn’t to replace doctors. Blindness is often preventable if diabetic retinopathy is caught early. The hope is that the technology can screen far more people for the condition than doctors could on their own, particularly in countries where healthcare is limited, says Peng. The project began, she says, when a Google researcher realized that doctors in his native India were struggling to screen all the locals that needed to be screened.

In many places, doctors are already using photos to diagnose the condition without seeing patients in person. “This is a well validated technology that can bring screening services to remote locations where diabetic retinal eye screening is less available,” says David McColloch, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Washington who specializes in diabetes. That could provide a convenient on-ramp for an AI that automates the process.

World Keratoconus Day


November 10 is the first World Keratoconus Day,  a national awareness day sponsored by the National Keratoconus Foundation. This day is dedicated to help raise awareness about keratoconus (KC), as well as educate and advocate for those living with KC.

We aim to do this by:

  • Encouraging people around the world to share their KC stories
  • Educating patients, friends and family about keratoconus
  • Collaborating with fellow KC organizations

Keratoconus, often abbreviated to “KC”, is a non-inflammatory eye condition in which the normally round dome-shaped cornea progressively thins causing a cone-like bulge to develop. This results in significant visual impairment.

14 million Brits not having regular eye tests


National Eye Health Week (NEHW) has revealed that almost 14 million of us aren’t having the recommended sight tests every two years – despite the fact that 55% of adults cite deteriorating vision as their biggest concern about getting older.

So if sight loss trumps both illness and hearing loss when it comes to our biggest fears, why aren’t we doing more to preserve it? This question becomes even more significant when you take into consideration the fact that around half of all cases of sight loss are actually preventable.

Regular eye tests also play a crucial role in detecting wider, more serious health conditions including high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and even signs of strokes and tumours.

The Generation Eye Report highlights the value people place on their vision and the depth of their knowledge about eye health. Based on its results it shows there is still an urgent job to do in educating the British population…

The report focused on three key groups: 18 – 24 year olds (The Unseen Generation), their parents (New Presbyopes) aged between 45 and 54 and their grandparents aged 65 and over (The Low Vision Generation).

Worryingly it discovered that those aged 18-24 were the group whose quality of vision or state of eye health had most restricted or impaired their daily life (36%), with around a third (32%) not having an eye test in the last two years.

The report found 80% of 45 – 54 year olds said they’d experienced problems with their eye health in the last year. While 94% of over-65s wore prescription eyewear however almost a third (32%) didn’t know wearing the wrong prescription glasses or contact lenses could affect their eyesight.

These are pretty stark figures and there’s no doubt that a huge proportion of us appear to be in the dark about taking care of our eyes. So if there’s one key message people can take away from this year’s NEWH, it is to ensure you are taking the time to have your eyes tested on a regular basis.

National guidelines recommend eye tests should take place once every two years at a minimum, or once a year for over 65’s, but of course, if you notice any changes in your vision – no matter how big or small – it is crucial you pay your local opticians a visit immediately.

Parkinson’s Disease Could Be Diagnosed Through Eye Check




Although Parkinson’s remain to be the second most common degenerative diseases in the world, experts are still struggling to find a way to detect and treat the disease. But, researchers say they now have reasons to believe that it is now possible to diagnose this illness by a simple eye test.

Parkinson’s is a disease that affects the nervous system through the death of a cell. It usually shows signs after 70% of the neurons have already been damaged. Tremor is usually one of the symptoms; it is the shaking of the hands and leg that is unintentional. Doctors believe that once this sign shows, it is already worse.

Scientists are now challenged to research on how to detect the disease before it worsens. They are finding ways to diagnose the disease before the signs would show up.

Researchers are now working on detecting Parkinson’s through the retina since it is an extension of the Central Nervous System.  They have tried to induce Parkinson’s by injecting rotenone in mice. They were able to see that the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are swelling on the 20th day of injecting the neurotoxin before the mice show signs of Parkinson’s. This shows that they can already detect the disease before the signs show. On the 60th day of careful observations, the mice showed signs of the disease, according to WCCF TECH.

UCL Professor of Glaucoma and Retinal Neurodegeneration Studies, Francesca Cordeiro said “This is potentially a revolutionary breakthrough in the early diagnosis and treatment of one of the world’s most debilitating diseases. These tests mean we might be able to intervene much earlier and more effectively treat people with this devastating condition.”

According to Dr. Arthur Roach, Director of Research at the Charity Parkinson’s UK, through a BBC News report, there is “an urgent need for a simple and accurate way of detecting the condition, particularly in its early stages.”

Since these research are only tested to the mice and not humans, researchers must do some more tests until it is safe for humans. Patients with the Parkinson’s disease are hoping for the breakthrough, yet they need more time and right the tools for further research.

Soon eye tests could spot the early signs of dementia


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Scientists have announced a breakthrough with new tests that could help delay and minimise the onset of the disease.

Dementia can be spotted with a simple eye test years before people begin to lose their memory.

More than 850,000 Brits have the condition. Most are only diagnosed in the late stages of the disease when it is too late to do anything about it. But if the disease is spotted much earlier, lifestyle changes could minimise the extent of the damage.

Drugs are also being developed which experts hope will be able to ward off dementia – but again these will only work if people are diagnosed early.

The latest discovery means opticians could look for signs of dementia during annual eye checks.

Scientists explained that the back of the eye can act as a window to the brain. It displays signs of changes at the same time as they are taking place deep within the brain circuits – years before symptoms start to appear.

Two research teams told the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto about their eye test discovery.

The first team, from London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital in London and Oxford University , found they could use eye scans to measure the precise thickness of a layer of neurons on the retina at the back of the eye.

Scientists measured this layer among 33,000 Brits aged 40 to 69 and also carried out tests on memory, reaction time and reasoning. They found people who had a thinner layer of neurons were more likely to perform poorly on the cognitive tests – a clear warning sign they may be undergoing the early stages of dementia.

The scanning machine is already used by many ophthalmologists and could easily be built into a standard eye exam.

A second study, by scientists at Waterloo University in Canada, found people with severe Alzheimer’s disease had deposits of a protein called amyloid on their retinas.

Amyloid, thought to be one of the key causes of Alzheimer’s, which makes up the majority of dementia cases, is often found to have formed into clumps and plaques in the brain. This is the first time scientists have found it is also visible on the eye.

Researchers examined the eyes and brains of 20 humans who had died with Alzheimer’s, along with the eyes of six dogs displaying symptoms of the disease.

The brains were full of amyloid plaques, as expected, but the researchers found they could also spot amyloid deposits in the eye using high-tech imaging. Scientists believe the technique could easily be used by opticians on living patients.

The researchers now aim to adapt standard opticians’ instruments to incorporate the imaging techniques.

Dr Clare Walton, research manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Changes in the brain associated with dementia can begin several years before any memory symptoms appear. This research suggests some of these changes happen in the retina of the eye too, which could give us a relatively easy, non-invasive way to spot them early.

“Eye tests are fairly common for older people, so there is great potential to incorporate additional tests into their regular check-up.




Eye Exercise app turns a smartphone into a vision aid


Your vision accounts for the majority of information you experience via your bodily senses. And do you know what’s especially bad for your eyes? Staring at screens all day long! While we’ve long moved on from the era of flickering, irradiated CRT monitors that destroy our vision, screens of all kinds still give our eyes a tiring, prolonged workout every day – unless your job doesn’t involve staring at smartphones or working with a computer, which is kind of rare these days.

Surprisingly, despite firing millions of illuminated pixels at your retinas, smartphones can actually help with maintaining your eyes. The Eye Exercises app by healthcare4mobile includes a bunch of vision therapy exercises to address common eye problems and practices, such as eye relaxation, dry eye, lazy eye, and other conditions.

Featuring over 50 exercises across 10 categories, the app sets you off on the right path with 7 ready-made training plans, 12 eye tests, and 8 quizzes to check your knowledge of eye diseases, problems and care.

As if that stuff isn’t enough, the app has a fully featured learning and science section with daily tips and eye facts, healthy recipes and nutrition info. Eye Exercises is available on Android for free.

Moorfields Eye Hospital pairs with tech giant, Google, to prevent blindness




Google has announced a project to analyse one million eye scans from NHS patients in an attempt to detect early signs of blindness.

DeepMind, a British subsidiary of the American internet giant, plans to use advanced computer learning technology to spot indicators of sight loss that have so far been undiscovered.

The company said it hoped the research would mean more people receiving early treatment to prevent blindness, amid predictions that sight loss will double in the UK by 2050.

Across the world there is an estimated 285 million visually impaired people, and 39 million of these are blind.

Conditions like age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy can be picked up is using digital screenings, which are highly complex and take a lot of time to analyse.

Now Google‘s DeepMind Health is teaming up with a Moorfields Eye Hospital in London to investigate how machine learning could help analyse these scans efficiently and effectively.

At the moment, eye health professionals rely on digital scans of the eye to diagnose and determine the correct treatment for common eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

The scans are highly complex and traditional analysis tools have been unable to explore them fully.

It also takes eye health professionals a long time to analyse eye scans, which can have an impact on how quickly they can meet patients to discuss diagnosis and treatment.

DeepMind, which Google paid £400 million to acquire two years ago, hopes to use artificial intelligence to advance medical and climate research after its software defeated the world champion at the ancient Chinese board game Go.

The collaboration hopes this will lead to earlier detection of common eye diseases.




Domiciliary eye care services put to test

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Optician Magazine Editor, Chris Bennett, writes the story below detailing his experience of an eye test at home from The Outside Clinic:

Not everyone is able to visit a high street optician but often these are the people who need eye care more than most.

The Outside Clinic celebrates its 30th anniversary later this year so when it suggested sending an optometrist around to conduct a home visit eye exam, Optician was happy to accept. The company manages its visits through a national control centre and clients are made aware of the service through various marketing and advertising routes.

The central hotline takes the call, checks for eligibility and arranges for an OO covering that area to visit at an agreed morning or afternoon slot, the patient is sent a number of reminders in the days preceding.

Optician was visited by OO Rachael Huang who arrived bang on the appointed time on just the kind of rainy morning when no-shows tend to spike. She said about an hour was allocated for each of her seven or so daily visits and she phoned ahead to let her next patient know when to expect her and to collect any necessary paperwork in readiness.

Huang’s range of equipment was impressive and included a hand held focimeter, a hand held Nidek VersaCam fundus camera and an iCare contact tonometer among her armoury.

Visiting OOs have to be ready for everything and she said it was not unusual to conduct an examination for a patient who was in bed. In this case the curve ball was a lack of curtains in the main room. She easily set up her equipment in a cramped study that had the necessary blinds. The computerised chart was placed on top of the case used to carry the 400-500 frame options and the three-metre viewing distance was measured. The current spectacles were checked on a focimeter to attain the lens power, as many clients do not know their current prescription.

The exam itself would have been comfortable and familiar to any elderly patient – a thorough, yet friendly and efficient refraction using a trial frame and lenses. Very much like an eye examination in a practice, without phoropter heads.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn has his eyes tested by The Outside Clinic

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Director Nicolas Winding Refn has his eyes tested by The Outside Clinic whilst filming a video and talks about turning weaknesses into strengths.

In the latest short by director Toby Amies, Refn gets a long-overdue optical check-up as he riffs on his creative process, being from the future, and the power in embracing our weaknesses.

Nicolas Winding Refn’s intense use of color in films comes as a result of an optical condition – he is color blind. Unable to see mid-tones—he can only see extreme differences in color— Refn has developed a style favoring high-contrast shots, seen in his films including DriveOnly God Forgives and The Neon Demon.

Sit in on the Danish directors eye test while he talks about his creative process, being from the future, and the power in embracing our weaknesses here (contains strong language)

Diabetes patients urged to get their eyes tested this Diabetes Week


A nationwide survey reveals that over 50 percent of respondents had sight complications linked to their diabetes.

The survey was carried out by healthcare marketing communications agency Onyx Health.  Results revealed that even with the real risk of diabetic retinopathy and other sight problems, 17 percent of diabetes patients hadn’t had an eye test for over a year. This was despite 40 percent of all respondents being very, or extremely, concerned about their eye health.

Of those surveyed, 47 percent said they would be willing to pay for a new and proven treatment for diabetes related sight conditions, whilst 40 percent would prefer to wait until a treatment became available on the NHS.

Two in five patients revealed they were receiving treatments for diabetic retinopathy – normally either laser eye surgery or invasive injections into the eye. Surgery is also carried out in severe cases to clear blood, repair detached retinas and remove scar tissue.

Eye research into the condition is being carried out by the UK’s main eye research charity, Fight for Sight. Dr Dolores Conroy, Director of Research, at the charity said: “Diabetes is a growing concern and with the numbers expected to rise this unfortunately means more cases of diabetic retinopathy. We’re investing £1.2m into a number of different projects across the country, which will help to further our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the condition and develop new treatments.”

Several potential therapies are being developed to prevent and treat the complications caused by diabetic retinopathy, including a type of light therapy that aims to reduce leakage of fluid in the central retina.

When asked which treatment patients most prefer, the popular choice, for those who answered, was light therapy using a sleep mask. Such as the Noctura 400 sleep mask, which uses light technology to prevent or treat retinopathy at any stage of its development.

CE marked and recently launched for sale at less than £3 per day, the mask could provide a viable early-stage therapy, or adjunct to established treatments, for the 47 percent of UK diabetes patients willing to pay to save their sight.

A number of patients with diabetic retinopathy have been using the Noctura 400 mask for over a year. One such patient is Sue Wales from Farnham, in Surrey. Having lived with type 1 diabetes for 32 years, she was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy at a routine eye screening four years ago. “I received over a dozen sessions of laser therapy at the eye hospital, but as a keen gardener, new bleeds kept on occurring every month whenever I did something strenuous like digging,” explains Sue.

In October 2014, Sue started to use the Noctura 400 sleep mask, as one of the first pilot patients, and found an improvement immediately. In the first 6 months of wearing the mask every night she did not have a single retinal bleed.  At her last eye check-up in January 2016, it was confirmed that for the first time in over two years, both her retinas were stable once again, with no signs of any small bleeds at all.

“I have been able to maintain my eyesight. I still have my driving licence, work full time and am enjoying a full and active life without the fear of my eyesight getting worse. I would recommend anyone with retinal damage to take action before it’s too late,” comments Sue.

This advice may prove to be a wake-up call for the 13 percent of survey respondents who said they were either slightly or not at all concerned about their eye health.