(HealthDay News) — Use of a nonmydriatic camera for retinal imaging combined with the remote evaluation of images identifies diabetic retinopathy (DR) in about 20% of patients with diabetes, according to a study published online November 13 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Cynthia Owsley, Ph.D., from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and colleagues examined the rate and types of DR identified through a telemedicine screening program in a cross-sectional study. The study was conducted at four urban clinic or pharmacy settings in the United States serving mainly ethnic/racial minority and uninsured patients with diabetes. Study participants were aged ≥18 years with type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus.

The researchers found that 21.7% of the 1,894 participants in the screening program had DR in at least one eye. Background DR was the most common type and was present in 94.1% of those with DR. Nearly half (44.2%) of those screened had ocular findings apart from DR, 30.7% of which were cataract.

“The vast majority of DR was background, indicating high public health potential for intervention in the earliest phases of DR when treatment can prevent vision loss,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to Nidek, which provided the cameras and operator training for the study free of charge.

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