Exploring retinal and functional markers of diabetic neuropathy
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) is one of the most debilitating complications of diabetes. DPN is a major cause of foot ulceration and lower limb amputation. Early diagnosis and management are key factors in reducing morbidity and mortality. Current techniques for clinical assessment of DPN are relatively insensitive for detecting early disease or involve invasive procedures such as skin biopsies. There is a need for less painful, non-invasive, safe evaluation methods. Eye-care professionals already play an important role in the management of diabetic retinopathy but recent studies have indicated that the eye may also be an important site for the diagnosis and monitoring of neuropathy. Corneal nerve morphology is a promising marker of diabetic neuropathy occurring elsewhere in the body. Emerging evidence tentatively suggests that retinal anatomical markers and a range of functional visual indicators could similarly provide useful information regarding neural damage in diabetes, although this line of research is less well established. This review outlines the growing body of evidence supporting a potential diagnostic role for retinal structure and visual functional markers in the diagnosis and monitoring of peripheral neuropathy in diabetes.