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FDA Approves AI-Powered Software To Detect Diabetic Retinopathy ( 34

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved an AI-powered device that can be used by non-specialists to detect diabetic retinopathy in adults with diabetes. Engadget reports: Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the high levels of blood sugar in the bloodstream cause damage to your retina's blood vessels. It's the most common cause of vision loss, according to the FDA. The approval comes for a device called IDx-DR, a software program that uses an AI algorithm to analyze images of the eye that can be taken in a regular doctor's office with a special camera, the Topcon NW400. The photos are then uploaded to a server that runs IDx-DR, which can then tell the doctor if there is a more than mild level of diabetic retinopathy present. If not, it will advise a re-screen in 12 months. The device and software can be used by health care providers who don't normally provide eye care services. The FDA warns that you shouldn't be screened with the device if you have had laser treatment, eye surgery or injections, as well as those with other conditions, like persistent vision loss, blurred vision, floaters, previously diagnosed macular edema and more.
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FDA Approves AI-Powered Software To Detect Diabetic Retinopathy

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  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @05:00AM (#56422689) Homepage

    The FDA warns that you shouldn't be screened with the device if you have had laser treatment, eye surgery or injections, as well as those with other conditions, like persistent vision loss, blurred vision, floaters, previously diagnosed macular edema and more

    Not very intelligent if it can't spot any of those, is it?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As much as I hate AI-hype, even if the system can generally spot such conditions excluding patients that are likely to give inaccurate results is a basic precaution of medical testing. And the FDA is very conservative; I wouldn't put it past them to slap such a condition on any new diagnostic tool until the maker has demonstrated that it is sufficiently accurate on people with those conditions, which is considerably more difficult than people without them due to the larger populations alone.

  • Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the high levels of blood sugar in the bloodstream cause damage to your retina's blood vessels

    An obvious way to fix the root cause is to switch to a low-carb diet, where you avoid high levels of blood sugar. Too bad there's more money to be made prescribing insulin and gadgets.

    • by Megol ( 3135005 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @05:13AM (#56422717)

      This is incredibly ignorant. Insulin is prescribed as the body needs it to function. In the old days before insulin the only "cure" was to have extremely low-carb diets which didn't work well in general.

      • Insulin is needed for a few percent of the diabetics. And even then, most insulin dependents can benefit from having a low-carb diet in combination with much less insulin.

        But I knew somebody would immediately come back with corner cases, ignoring the big picture of millions of people who can get better by fixing their diet.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Those of us who's body doesn't produce any of the hormone needed to live (myself included) don't feel like corner cases. I agree that many cases of type 2 can be solved by diet. In fact, I have a really good insight into type 2 diabetes - when I'm running and biking a lot I can get by with 2 units of insulin per meal, and 12 of slow acting at nighttime, when I'm lazy and watch tv a lot, that goes up to 12 units per meal and about 30 units of slow insulin at bedtime. Type 2 people need to get more exercise a

      • by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @07:25AM (#56423037) Homepage Journal

        This is incredibly ignorant. Insulin is prescribed as the body needs it to function. In the old days before insulin the only "cure" was to have extremely low-carb diets which didn't work well in general.

        Nope. You appear to be ignorant. A low carb diet doesn't eliminate basal insulin. It fixes excess insulin. You are referring to type 1 diabetes which affects only a small number of people, whereas the majority of people in the USA are pre-diabetic and on the path to type 2 diabetes as indicated by their insulin response to glucose and most of them don't know.

    • Type 1 vs Type 2 (Score:4, Informative)

      by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @06:30AM (#56422819) Homepage

      You're confusing diabetes types :

      (I'm simplifying so you can get the gist of it, but my simplification isn't entirely wrong).

      - Type 2 diabetes (most often occur in aged patients) :
      the body is so overweight, that the fat tissue disturbs the hormonal balance and among other makes the body less sensitive to insulin.
      (there are a couple of other rarer mechanism that could lead to the same end result).
      The pancreas is still producing insulin as usual, but there are far less insulin receptors on cell surface, so glucose doesn't get absorbed (except in the brain).

      Giving insulin, is a temporary measure (counter acting the lower reactivity of the body to the insulin), while changes in lifestyle is what is more likely to give long term results by lowering the overweightness and eventually stoping the disturbtion in the insulin system.
      As an added bonus, it will also help against all the *others* distrubtions that obesity can cause (cholesterol, sex hormone distrubtion, mechanical stress on joints, etc.)

      In a perfect world that what should be done. The problem is that the world isn't perfect and doesn't always work as you wish. It's *hard* to get people to change their lifestyle (again, type 2 shows usually at a later age, by then the bad lifestyle leading to obesity is a hard habit and not easy to fight), it might be possible (they might be in bad shape - due to other disease - and not able to exercice physically in adequate manner), it might not be sufficient (fixing the lifestyle and bringing the wright back to nromal will tremendously improve the situation, but not definitely cure it), or it might be in the few special cases where type 2 arises despite NO overweight patient.
      In those case, keeping drugs is your fallback method.

      - Type 1 diabetes (often occur at a younger age) :
      is the body simply being unable to produce it's own insulin, but other wise functions normally
      (most likely an auto-imune reaction caused to kill its own cell in the pancreas and kill most insulin production).

      In this case, insulin IS the go to method. The body works as it should, its simply the pancreas that isn't producing insuline anymore, and you're simply replacing it with drugs and gadget.
      The proper longterm solution would be to regrow the insulin-producing pancreatic cells, but the research isn't quite there yet (but advancing, so in the future my comment won't hold true anymore. Also as said abbove, this arises at a young age. Chances are high that these patients will grow up to an age where insulin cell regrow is a thing).

      Meanwhile, redesigning the diet to be absolutely glucose free isn't an easy feat. (Again, it's not the insulin system working a bit less efficiently as in type 2, it the system being completely absent. you need to have a diet with nearly no glucose at all, as a few bodybuilders are doing). It's possible, some people are doing it, but it's not mainstream and not easy (and again, isn't the proper long-term solution anyway).
      Keeping the drugs and the gadgets until you can get implanted with a "replacement pancreas" works better currently.

      Now to go back to TFS,
      in both case, prolonged exposure to increased glucose levels in the bloodstream can cause progressive damage to bloodvessel, which causes damage to multiple organs. The retina is one of the affected organs (as are kindeys, etc.), which requires regular monitoring.
      This monitoring is normally done by specialists (ophthalmologist, not your family doctor) which might not be easily available in remote areas (small villages don't necessarily have one).
      The device is a way to assist a non-specialist (your family doctor) to perform the exam.
      Again , that something that needs to be monitored, even until the type 2 is cured by completely eliminating the root cause (obesity) for those few that managed completely recover once back to a healthier lifestyle.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I do not produce insulin,in the old days I would have been able to exist for a short time on a starvation diet and whiskey as that was the treatment my great Grandmother was given pre insulin. She survived for almost a year and died as basically a human skeleton.
        I use the amount needed by my body to keep my blood sugar in control. You do know that the normal fuel sources source your body use down for energy are broken into glucose don't you? Which is what my body does not handle. No insulin I quickly climb

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You have cause and effect backwards for many if not most of Type 2 diabetes and obesity. (It's OK, it's much easier to blame the victim.) While obesity aggravates Type 2 profoundly, the insulin resistance found in even slim Type 2 diabetics raises insulin levels. The insulin levels raise hunger, and any lethargy from excess blood glucose also tends to reduce exercise. Then the feedback loop of hunger, over-eating, and reluctance to exercise insidiously aggravates the problem, and untrained people blame the

      • Thanks for the great post - that's exactly what Shashdot should be about!

  • Is this actually useful? My optician takes a photo of my retina each year and compares it with the previous one when I have my sight tested. This comparison apparently provide a very high rate of detection of diabetes (before any other symptoms are visible). Do you really need a pattern-recognition system to do this? Is it actually better than an optician?
    • It's probably not better but there are a lot of people who don't get their eyes checked as regularly as you do. A lot of people don't get their follow ups for example. I see this as another developing tool in the toolbox (used alongside current good methods) that will potentially allow for increased detection rates. It's worth having if it's helpful, passes a cost / benefit analysis, and doesn't suck.

      All three of those things seem to be up in the air right now, but time will tell.

      The fact that it can
      • Optician is not a medical doctor, he's the guy doing your glasses.
        He can do some eye exams, he's even trained to recognize medical condition and to refer you to a specialist in those cases.

        It's a useful spot that you can use to detect diseases.
        But only people needing glasses are going to see an optician.

        People with diabetes but no eyesight problem will never see one.


        Ophthalmologist is the medical doctor that specializes in disease of the eye.
        He's the one specially trained for diagnosing retina problem,

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )

      The photo is worthless, either you have the symptoms or you don't. If the optometrist can't see them by looking into your eye you need to find a new optometrist.

      Does your insurance cover that photo? I'm guessing not. I had an optometrist who tried the same scam on me, just an excuse to charge more for the exam to help pay for his next cruise.

    • So yearly at my company, they setup health screening by nurses (through a third party company). If they can use an AI driven device to look, you can then schedule an appointment knowing that it needs to be checked out.
  • That should be easy to weaponize! []
  • I need to work on my AI - it didn't predict this and so I never saw it coming.

  • I'd recommend to anyone to check out Dr Jason Fung. Any Doctor that calls out the bullshit doctors and "experts" that peddle false information to profit or advance their agenda gets my respect. Check out his blog at []. Well worth checking out.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal