Researchers at Sweden'sUmeå University believe they have discovered a novel way to determine the likelihood type 2 diabetics will experience nerve damage in their lifetimes. The new screening method developed by these scientists relies on an advanced microscope that's able to detect changes in a patient's corneal nerves.
A little over 80 people from the northern Swedish city Skellefteå took part in this first of its kind study. To provide a control, some of the study participants examined by doctors didn't have type 2 diabetes.
Researchers used a new microscopic screening method to take 3D pictures of each patient's corneas. This new painless test only takes about ten minutes to complete.
As they observed the corneas of these patients, researchers noticed that on average the nerve density in the eyes of diabetics was lower than people without the disease. Study authors also found that the longer a person had diabetes, the more likely they were to have an extremely low nerve density ratings.
Although this new test was developed in Sweden, researchers from other European nations like Italy and Germany collaborated on this project. Scientists are also hard at work developing a system that can use data from these microscopic scans to uncover information about a patient's overall health.
Diabetic nerve pain, sometimes called diabetic neuropathy, is a common condition associated with type 2 diabetes patients. This pain syndrome most often affects patients who've had diabetes for over a decade and usually first affects a person's feet. Besides pain in the feet, people with diabetic neuropathy could experience tingling in the legs, increased heart rate, and digestive distress.
People with mild diabetic neuropathy could usually control their symptoms with diet changes and pain medications. In serious cases, doctors may have to amputate a patient's legs.
Before nerve pain symptoms occur, the tiny fibers at the ends of a diabetic's peripheral nerves start to weaken. Although these peripheral nerve endings are located throughout the skin, they are far easier to see in a person's cornea.
Olov Rolandsson, who teaches at Umeå University's Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, was the lead author of this new study. A few other professors involved in this research include Neil S. Lagali, Stephan Allgeier, and Bernd Köhler.
Anyone can learn more specifics about this research in a new edition of the medical journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. Study authors entitled this article, "Reduced Corneal Nerve Fiber Density in Type 2 Diabetes by Wide-Area Mosaic Analysis."