COPENHAGEN — In welcoming the audience gathered at the opening ceremony of Euretina, President Ursula Schmidt-Erfurth, MD, PhD, evoked the image of the retina as a miniature, highly condensed universe, “with 90% of visual function residing in the tiny area of the macula, 1.5 mm large and 0.2 mm thick.”
Minimal alterations in this universe, she said, immediately lead to severe visual defects affecting all tasks in life and impacting all levels of socioeconomic well-being and mental health.
Macular disease is the leading cause of blindness in developed countries among people older than 50 years of age, with vision loss affecting up to 30% of individuals. Age-related macular degeneration alone is responsible for 170 million people becoming legally blind worldwide, diabetes for a further 20 million and vascular disease for 16 million.
“We have gone far in improving our diagnostics. OCT has been a breakthrough, generating gigantic amounts of data. This is the basis for efficient, precision therapy consisting of injections of milli-doses of medications directed into the patient’s eye,” Schmidt-Erfurth said.
Currently up to 6 million injections are performed per year in the U.S. alone and 60,000 in a small country such as Austria, where Schmidt-Erfurth lives and works. Billions of dollars are invested worldwide for one of the most efficient but also most frequent eye care procedures, referred to as “the biggest budget drain in medicine.” Yet the numbers are rising due to the aging of the population worldwide
“Here is where artificial intelligence comes in and offers solutions based on solid computer algorithms, allowing the simple doctor to become a super brain with all the super diagnostics and therapies in hand. This is a bright future, and we have to embrace it because we live in a big data area and big data age,” Schmidt-Erfurth said. – by Michela Cimberle
Schmidt-Erfurth U. Welcome from the president. 16th Euretina Congress; Sept 8-11, 2016; Copenhagen, Denmark.
Disclosure: Schmidt-Erfurth reports she is a consultant to Alcon, Bayer, Novartis and Allergan.