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Health Team

Camera detects early signs of blindness in diabetics

Posted October 21, 2010 12:46 p.m. EDT
Updated October 21, 2010 10:46 p.m. EDT

— Diabetes is the leading cause of adult blindness, but less than half of diabetics in the United States get the recommended annual vision screening.

Physicians at UNC Family Medicine believe that doing vision tests during visits to primary care doctors could be the key to catching retinopathy – a diabetes-related disease that causes blindness – when it's most treatable.

UNC Family Medicine is using a new camera donated by Prevent Blindness North Carolina that looks through the pupil and into the back of the eye without dilating it. The camera can detect differences in the retina that indicate the presence of retinopathy.

"By bringing this digital camera into a primary care setting, our goal and our hope is that we can screen many more of our patients with diabetes," said Dr. Mark Gwynne, with UNC Family Medicine.

Once a patient has been screened by the camera, the photos are sent to UNC Ophthalmology for a detailed analysis. If problems are noted, patients are called back for a more detailed exam.

UNC Family Medicine physicians eventually hope to develop an automated way to electronically send the pictures to a network of ophthalmologists.

Doctors said they hope to demonstrate that screening with the digital camera is an effective and financially viable option to help diabetics keep their vision for as long as possible.

"Early diabetic retinopathy is something we can treat, and our ophthalmologists have many different surgical techniques to treat it," Gwynne said.