We’re working with opticians to detect diabetic neuropathy

Close-up of an optometry machine.

We’ve been working with our industry partners Heidelberg Engineering to give optometrists practical experience of performing the new corneal confocal microscopy (CCM) procedure, a quick, non-invasive eye test which can detect diabetic neuropathy in limbs in its earliest stages.

Around one in five diabetic patients develop diabetic neuropathy (the most common complication in diabetes that results in damage to the nerves in the limbs, particularly the feet and legs) and it can lead to numbness, pain, loss of sensation, foot ulceration and, potentially, amputation. Early identification of neuropathy enables earlier action to control progression of this serious condition.

In April 2015, the project started recruiting patients in optometry practices in Urmston, Harpurhey and Moss Side, with a fourth practice in Irlam beginning recruitment in June. Many patients that access these practices for their diabetic screening appointment are taking part in this study, giving patients a longer appointment time with their optometrist and a chance to input their views on this potential future national diabetes assessment method.

We’re delighted to say that over 440 patients have now been recruited into this study and our mid-point data is extremely promising, with some highlights below:

  • The optometrists involved in this project have been trained at the University of Manchester and reported that in the majority of cases the procedure has been easy to carry out
  • The vast majority of the patients taking part have said that they would undergo the procedure again
  • The length of time that the procedure takes to carry out has reduced over time
  • Most images of the eye captured during the procedure were good enough to be used to form a diagnosis.

It’s important to note that we haven’t completed the full data analysis to answer all the protocol questions at this point. Detailed qualitative and quantitative analysis of the feasibility, acceptability, health economic budget impact and clinical comparison will be provided in the final report of this work, due to be released at the end of this year.

Read more about this work.