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UW researchers to expand program to prevent diabetic eye disease

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health are hoping to make strides in preventing eye disease, especially for those with
Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 7:28 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health are hoping to make strides in preventing eye disease, especially for those with diabetes.

Diabetes can damage the eyes and even result in blindness, according to Dr. Yao Liu, director of the UW Teleophthalmology Program.

She added, diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults in the country.

“We can detect diabetic eye disease before patients even realize that they have a problem,” Dr. Liu said.

With the support of a national grant totaling $4.4 million, Dr. Liu and her team plan to focus on improving their teleophthalmology programs at select primary care clinics.

For several years, UW researchers have practiced teleophthalmology within the state by having primary care physicians take photos of the back of patients’ eyes. The images are then sent to UW Health eye specialists in Madison, who reviews them for early signs of damage.

Dr. Liu now hopes to expand out of Wisconsin clinics to start the program in up to ten new health systems around the country. All of them would focus on rural communities.

“The goal of our research is to make eye care more accessible, particularly for people in rural communities who have to travel longer distances to get eye specialty care,” Dr. Liu said. “With teleophthalmology, we can have patients get their eyes checked by a doctor who may be even hundreds of miles away using cameras, smartphones and other new technologies.”

The grant was awarded by the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, in September 2021.

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