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Detecting diabetic nerve damage in ten minutes by magnifying the cornea

Researchers have used a special microscope to detect changes in corneal nerve density


Swedish researchers have highlighted that examining corneal nerve fibre density could be a way of detecting the extent of diabetic nerve damage.

Scientists at Umea University in Sweden examined the eyes of 82 people with and without Type 2 diabetes using confocal microscopy and wide-area mosaic analysis.

Corneal nerve density was thinner in people with Type 2 diabetes compared to healthy study participants.

Those who had lived with diabetes for a longer period of time had lower corneal nerve density than those whose diagnosis with the condition was more recent.

Half of patients who have lived with diabetes for more than ten years have nerve damage, which usually begins in their feet.

Nerve damage can increase an individual’s risk of developing wounds and, in some cases, may result in amputation of limbs.

However, it is challenging to detect this type of nerve damage. Researchers hope by detecting changes in the cornea they can spot the conditions before symptoms become apparent.

"Although there is currently no cure, it's always an advantage to detect changes in the nerves early. Therefore, it's valuable to find a fast and safe diagnostic method," study author, Professor Olov Rolandsson, emphasised.

The research is published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science.

Image credit: Eric Wiessner