The use of quantitative measurements of pupil size as an index of autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity in normal and diabetic subjects is described. The dual innervation of the iris by the parasympathetic (PNS) and sympathetic (SNS) nervous system was demonstrated by measurement of steadystate pupil size before and after changes in ANS activity by pharmacologic agents. In the presence of total PNS blockade, dark-adapted pupil size was a reliable index of SNS activity to the iris. Latency time (time from light stimulation to initial pupil response) appeared to be a good index of PNS activity. However, increased SNS activity may also prolong the latency time. Thus, consideration of SNS activity is necessary when evaluating the latency time. In 25 diabetic subjects, there was evidence of impaired SNS activity (smaller dark-adapted pupil size during total PNS blockade) and PNS activity (prolonged latency time). In a subgroup of diabetic subjects without clinical manifestations of autonomic neuropathy and normal subjects, both dark-adapted pupil size during PNS blockade (SNS index) and latency time (PNS index) were abnormal. The coefficient of variation for these two indices was less than 5% in glycemic stable diabetic subjects. Thus, these two indices are reliable and sensitive measures of the SNS and PNS activity to the iris in normal and diabetic subjects.

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