Researchers Use Artificial Intelligence to Diagnose Two Common Eye Diseases

A man getting an eye exam from a doctor

Researchers continue to find new computer applications for artificial intelligence, known as AI, to perform normal human activities. Recently, scientists studied ways to apply artificial intelligence to diagnose eye diseases. Here’s a summary of their research.

Two common eye diseases

Many eye diseases can impact vision, but two common conditions can lead to blindness:

  • Macular degeneration – Over 10 million Americans are affected by macular degeneration, a disease that affects the macula in the center of the retina, located in the back of the eye. It provides sharp focus needed for reading, driving and recognizing objects and other people.
  • Diabetic macular edema – Neary 26 million Americans have diabetes. Of this group, over 28 percent of people ages 40 and older have diabetic retinopathy, which damages the retina. Consistently high blood sugar levels can cause blood vessels in the retina to leak or bleed. The fluid can accumulate in the macula and affect central and color vision, and cause blindness.

Although both diseases are irreversible, they can be treated if found at an early stage. But often people don’t notice vision changes until the disease has progressed. Having yearly comprehensive vision exams can help eye doctors develop a baseline to detect future changes in the eyes.

Researchers apply artificial intelligence

Scientists from California, Texas, Germany, and China studied over 200,000 eye scans stored on computers to accurately diagnose these macular diseases. They compared diagnosis made with artificial intelligence against the decision of five ophthalmologists who reviewed the same eye scans. The diagnosis made by the machine and the ophthalmologists was similar, but the machine generated a decision within 30 seconds, with more than 95 percent accuracy.

The benefit to countries with limited medical resources

Researchers believe that a simple and inexpensive artificial intelligence tool could significantly change the diagnosis of macular diseases, especially in countries with limited medical personnel and resources.

New applications for artificial intelligence

Medical experts are researching applications for artificial intelligence to diagnose many other medical conditions, including pneumonia, skin cancer, Alzheimer’s and cholera.

Science Daily
American Macular Degeneration Foundation
All About Vision