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Artificial Intelligence Is Helping to Diagnose Conditions and Diseases of the Eyes

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

Early diagnosis and treatment are “crucial to preventing vision loss” to diabetic retinopathy and other eye diseases and conditions. For many diseases, if they are detected early and identified accurately, effective treatments are available. However, often the condition is difficult to detect in early stages. “The challenges are much worse in remote corners of the world that have limited access to ophthalmic and neonatal care,” stated Michael F. Chang, MD, Director of the NEI (National Eye Institute) of the NIH (National Institutes of Health). In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) has helped to bridge the gap. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first autonomous AI-based diagnostic tool, IDx-DR, which screens for diabetic retinopathy, providing results that do not require interpretation by doctors. AI-based diagnostic tools have been developed to test for other eye conditions and diseases as well. For example, the AI-based i-ROP Deep Learning (i-ROP DL) automates the identification of retinopathy of prematurity by detecting abnormalities in retinal blood vessels of premature infants. In glaucoma treatment, the IOPerfect, a contactless, intraocular pressure (IOP) measuring device, monitors users’ IOP without the need for eye drops or calibration. Results are reviewed by clinicians. Many more AI-based diagnostic tools and systems are in development to identify additional eye diseases and other medical conditions as well. As much as AI helps in diagnostics, “Under real-world conditions,” challenges remain. “A key problem is these AI algorithms need to be trained with more diverse images and data…”  Larger datasets, “a collaborative culture of sharing data,” broader validation studies, and other practices are needed to realize the full potential of AI. For more information, read the NIH Director’s Blog article, “Artificial Intelligence Getting Smarter! Innovations from the Vision Field” and/or read the MedicalExpo E-Magazine article, “Tackling Blindness: A Contactless AI Device to Diagnose and Monitor Glaucoma.”