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Artificial intelligence-based tool shows promise in detecting diabetes-linked blindness


A diagnostic tool developed by Google and researchers in India based on artificial intelligence for detecting diabetic retinopathy is showing promise in the Indian setting. This is according to experts at Chennai’s Sankara Nethralaya, which is one of India's leading eye hospitals.

India will have the most number of diabetics by 2045

The hospital is working with 2,000 patients to validate the AI diagnostic tool in a clinical setting. The sensitivity and specificity of the screening is over 90%. The higher a test’s sensitivity, the higher the chances of it correctly identifying a disease when it is present.

In India, there were more than 70 million cases of diabetes in 2017. By 2045, India is projected to have 134 million cases, higher than China’s projected 120 million and making India the country with the most number of diabetics, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy does not have to lead to blindness if the condition is detected early.This is done by looking at the retina, where the presence of lesions, an indicator of fluid leakages and bleeding, is used to determine the condition’s severity.

In India, there is no screening programme for diabetes in India. Those who have diabetes are supposed to have an annual exam, yet this does not happen.

The potential of this new test is huge as it will not only increase the amount of screening but also free up doctors to confirm diagnoses and provide treatment rather than do the first level of screening themselves. The AI system can also be used to diagnose other diseases.

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