Pupillary light reflexes are associated with autonomic dysfunction in Bolivian diabetics but not chagas disease patients

Anthony Halperin, Monica Pajuelo, Jeffrey A. Tornheim, Nancy Vu, Andrés M. Carnero, Gerson Galdos-Cardenas, Lisbeth Ferrufino, Marilyn Camacho, Juan Justiniano, Rony Colanzi, Natalie M. Bowman, Tiffany Morris, Hamish MacDougall, Caryn Bern, Steven T. Moore, Robert H. Gilman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Autonomic dysfunction is common in Chagas disease and diabetes. Patients with either condition complicated by cardiac autonomic dysfunction face increased mortality, but no clinical predictors of autonomic dysfunction exist. Pupillary light reflexes (PLRs) may identify such patients early, allowing for intensified treatment. To evaluate the significance of PLRs, adults were recruited from the outpatient endocrine, cardiology, and surgical clinics at a Bolivian teaching hospital. After testing for Chagas disease and diabetes, participants completed conventional autonomic testing (CAT) evaluating their cardiovascular responses to Valsalva, deep breathing, and orthostatic changes. PLRs were measured using specially designed goggles, then CAT and PLRs were compared as measures of autonomic dysfunction. This study analyzed 163 adults, including 96 with Chagas disease, 35 patients with diabetes, and 32 controls. PLRs were not significantly different between Chagas disease patients and controls. Patients with diabetes had longer latency to onset of pupil constriction, slower maximum constriction velocities, and smaller orthostatic ratios than nonpatients with diabetes. PLRs correlated poorly with CAT results. A PLR-based clinical risk score demonstrated a 2.27-fold increased likelihood of diabetes complicated by autonomic dysfunction compared with the combination of blood tests, CAT, and PLRs (sensitivity 87.9%, specificity 61.3%). PLRs represent a promising tool for evaluating subclinical neuropathy in patients with diabetes without symptomatic autonomic dysfunction. Pupillometry does not have a role in the evaluation of Chagas disease patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1290-1298
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


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