A new test may help diagnose diabetes 10 years sooner than current tests, and may help reduce cost as well. It may take several years until the new tool is available, and researchers also hope to find more uses for the instrument.
It is said the eyes are the windows to the soul, but on a more practical note they may soon tell us whether we have diabetes.
Researchers at the University of Michigan have come up with a device which can detect not only diabetes, but also tell people 10 years sooner than current diagnostic exams whether they have macular degeneration which is a disintegration of the back of the eye where vision is processed.
Archives of Ophthalmology for July 2008 describes the findings. The inventors used a camera and computer to look at the retina. Based on a protein which appears in the eye with diabetes and some eye diseases, it can determine the start or progression of disease, and then assign it a numeric value. If this proves successful it will be a viable alternative to blood tests. Aside from the anxiety associated with drawing blood, pain, and the need for fasting, economics are involved. Blood tests usually cost more than five times the $20 this test would cost.
Don’t give up your glucose meter just yet. Daily testing is still going to be required, and these inventors haven’t yet obtained a patent. Years of testing will be needed to determine how efficient and reliable the data, then the long Food and Drug Administration approval process will follow. Still, it sounds quite promising.
The researchers believe they will be capable of determining more applications for the device. For example, many people take vitamins to prevent macular degeneration. However, little is known of the effectiveness of those vitamins. This device may be able to address the question.
For the time being, the focus is on diabetes because with 24 million of us diagnosed and a significant number of people walking around without knowing they have diabetes, there’ a lot at stake.