Transfer learning with convolutional neural networks for diabetic retinopathy image classification: A review

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Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a dangerous eye condition that affects diabetic patients. Without early detection, it can affect the retina and may eventually cause permanent blindness. The early diagnosis of DR is crucial for its treatment. However, the diagnosis of DR is a very difficult process that requires an experienced ophthalmologist. A breakthrough in the field of artificial intelligence called deep learning can help in giving the ophthalmologist a second opinion regarding the classification of the DR by using an autonomous classifier. To accurately train a deep learning model to classify DR, an enormous number of images is required, and this is an important limitation in the DR domain. Transfer learning is a technique that can help in overcoming the scarcity of images. The main idea that is exploited by transfer learning is that a deep learning architecture, previously trained on non-medical images, can be fine-tuned to suit the DR dataset. This paper reviews research papers that focus on DR classification by using transfer learning to present the best existing methods to address this problem. This review can help future researchers to find out existing transfer learning methods to address the DR classification task and to show their differences in terms of performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2021
Number of pages24
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • Convolutional neural networks
  • Deep learning
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Transfer learning


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