New eye-scanning technology can pick up early signs of type 2 diabetes. Researchers foresee that it will help expedite diagnosis and treatment.

The new technology – an eye-scanning biomicroscope – detects the level of autofluorescence in the lens of the eye. That marker is linked to levels of blood sugar and can predict who will go on to develop type 2 diabetes, wrote Mitra Tavakoli, Ph.D., University of Exeter Medical School, U.K. It’s also an early marker of prediabetes.

“Lens autofluorescence is significantly greater in patients with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes,” Tavakoli reported.

People with prediabetes have impaired glucose tolerance, and are at high risk of developing full-blown diabetes. In addition, the lag time between diabetes onset and diagnosis can last years – putting individuals at greater risk of developing dangerous complications, including eye and kidney damage. Early treatment can help to delay or halt the damage.

“[This is] an exciting, emerging new tool for early detection and monitoring the treatment of patients. It could improve the lives of people with type 2 diabetes by reducing complications,” Tavakoli concluded.

The research was presented at this week’s 2019 Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Barcelona. An accompanying poster has been posted online.