Eastern Iowa doctor working to prevent blindness amongst diabetics

By  | 

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) - A doctor from the University of Iowa is working to prevent the leading cause of blindness in adults. Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication of diabetes. Many people with diabetes don't know they have it until it's too late.

Dr. Michael Abramoff is an ophthalmologist. He and his team is finishing up a clinical trial for a software that would let pharmacies or a primary doctor test people for Diabetic Retinopathy. The software is called IDx-DR

He says people should get tested for it once per year, but they don’t. He explains, "Many people don't go, because it's a travel, expense, people having to wait a long time."

The software will take pictures of the retina and look for the signs of the disease. It’s been tested in 7 states. It takes about four hours of training for a pharmacist to learn it.

Abramoff says, "It cannot be a very experience photographer doing these images because there's not enough of them either. So you need to have somebody in the clinic or in the pharmacy and being able to train them for a few hours to do this."

If it hits the market, he hopes people would take advantage of the cost savings.

He says, “What I do is a full eye exam right, an eye care provider gives a full eye exam. An optometrist, an ophthalmologist, or a retina specialist. This is not a full eye example, it will just test for diabetic retinopathy, so it can be cheaper."

Diabetes can damage the nerve cells and the blood vessels in an eye. Abramoff says it can take years for a person to notice the symptoms, and it could be too late by that time.

He says, "The [eye] damage has already been done and cannot be treated well. If we detect it on time, then we can almost always treat it in time and prevent the physical loss and the blindness. "

The software still needs to be cleared by the FDA. He hopes to hear back from them by the end of the year.