The Connection Between Diabetes and Neurotrophic Keratitis
Did you know that there are over 34 million people that suffer with the impact of diabetes in the United States? Diabetes is classified as a condition where your body either does not produce enough insulin (also known as type 1 diabetes) or doesn’t use insulin properly (type 2). Gestational diabetes, on the other hand, is a diabetic condition that directly effects a woman that is pregnant. While gestational diabetes usually ends once a woman gives birth, she is still at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes at any point in her life.
Regardless of the type of diabetes you are diagnosed with, you can experience a multitude of health issues. Unfortunately, something is often overlooked is the impact that diabetes can have on the health of your eyes. Neurotrophic keratitis is a serious eye condition that people with diabetes are particularly susceptible to. In honor of Diabetes Awareness Month, here are some facts that you should know about neurotrophic keratitis.
What You Should Know About Neurotrophic Keratitis
If you have never heard of neurotrophic keratitis, you probably aren’t alone. This ocular condition statistically impacts approximately five out of every 10,000 which is one of the reasons why it’s classified as a rare disorder. However, it’s suspected that many more people suffer with this condition than what has been reported. Many people make the mistake of not attributing their eye issues with this disorder.
Neurotrophic keratitis causes a decrease in the sensitivity around the cornea. In turn, this can damage your cornea which can have a direct impact on your vision and ocular health.
The Importance of Your Corneal Nerves
Many people don’t realize that your eyes’ tearing and blinking reflexes are your body’s way of trying to protect the complex structure of your eye. For example, a healthy eye will naturally blink and tear if debris or dust is blown into it as a way to prevent and/or flush out any foreign bodies that may have entered. The corneal nerves help to trigger this type of reaction. Overall, your corneal nerve helps to keep your eye healthy and also helps to maintain the epithelium of your eye which is the translucent layer that is on the surface of your eye.
When your corneal nerves are impaired, you may not have a normal tearing and blinking reflex and this can lead to the eyes progressively getting damaged. When there is a loss of sensitivity in the eyes, they cannot protect themselves properly.
Related post: 6 Common Problems That Cause Distortion of the Cornea
What are the Causes of Neurotrophic Keratitis?
There are several things that can cause a person to develop neurotrophic keratitis. While it’s true that diabetes can play a contributing factor in this condition, it’s not the only cause of it. Some common examples include:
- Over wearing your contact lenses
- Continuously using eye drops that have preservatives
- Chronic dry eye
- Prior eye surgery such for glaucoma or cataract surgery
- Herpetic infections that impacted the cornea
Neurotrophic keratitis can also be the result of natural aging which is why it’s critical that you schedule routine appointments with your eye care professional. Diagnosing neurotrophic keratitis entails not only a physical examination of your eyes but also taking into account your full medical history and any contributing factors that may be in play. For example, if you have a condition such as a vitamin A deficiency, multiple sclerosis or diabetes, it’s possible that you may be more susceptible for developing this condition.
Treatments for Neurotrophic Keratitis
The good news is that there are treatment options available for neurotrophic keratitis which include but are not limited to:
- Preservative-free artificial tears
- Growth hormone drops
- Corneal neurotization
- Scleral lenses
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, your next phone call should be to our office so that we can screen you for neurotrophic keratitis and help you to put a treatment plan together to address it so that your eye health does not suffer any further.
Related post: Scleral Lenses: 10 Questions to Ask Your Optometrist
Neurotrophic Keratitis Awareness
At the Miami Contact Lens Institute, our team is committed to providing our patients with awareness and prevention options for a variety of eye conditions, including neurotrophic keratitis. Our experienced eye doctors work closely with you to develop a treatment plan and provide you with the best eye care tips based on your personal health and situation. For more information about neurotrophic keratitis or to schedule your appointment with one of our doctors, please get in touch with us.