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Diabetic Retinopathy: New imaging tech will save rural sight

A new diabetic retinopathy imaging machine donated by the Brien Holden Foundation is transforming medical care for diabetes patients in rural and remote Australia.

Diabetic retinopathy is caused when high blood sugar damages blood vessels in the retina (a light-sensitive layer of cells in the back of the eye). Damaged blood vessels can swell and leak, causing blurry vision or stopping blood flow.

This common eye disease is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults.

The imaging machine allows rural nurses to examine the eye of diabetic patients to monitor eye health and look for indicators of vision impairment and disease.

"This is transformative technology for diabetes patients" said Roie Caine, Practice Manager at the Galariinbaraay/Collarenebri Medical Centre.

"Diabetes is a leading cause of poor health in rural and Aboriginal communities. In the past residents would have to travel 4 hours to a regional city to have their eyes checked. We can now do this locally as a regular part of their chronic disease health care.

"The cost and time for rural and Aboriginal people to travel to the city to get basic healthcare has been a major challenge, and one of the reasons why we have a high prevalence of eye diseases among this patient group.

"Thanks to the extraordinary Brien Holder Foundation, residents of Collarenebri can now get a 12-monthly eye health check. We plan to incorporate the service into a mobile clinic that will travel around rural and remote communities providing a range of health services that residents presently cannot access affordably in their own community" said Ms Caine.

The Foundation is focused on exploring how technology can be used to create innovative models of care that address disadvantage in rural communities.

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