Tear-testing may be the future of screening for diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a debilitating condition that affects people with diabetes, new research from UNSW Sydney suggests.
The study, recently published in The Ocular Surface, is the first to show that peripheral nerve damage – often the earliest sign of the condition – can be traced in tear film.
“We found that people with type 1 diabetic peripheral neuropathy – which can result in recurring ulcers of the feet and in severe cases require amputation – have reduced levels of a protein known as ‘substance P’ in their tear film,” says Dr Maria Markoulli, senior author of the study.
“119,000 Australians have type 1 diabetes. In the future, they may be able to have a quick tear sample collected either at their optometrist, the chemist, GP or endocrinologist, and be told whether they are at risk.”
Peripheral neuropathy is the most common complication of diabetes and affects almost 50% of diabetics. It occurs when chronically high blood sugar damages the nerves connecting the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body.
Symptoms include pain, numbness, imbalance, weakness, pins and needles, and recurring foot ulcers.
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