Israeli researchers have paired together smartphones with pressure-sensing socks to reduce foot ulcers in people with diabetes.
This project, called the BioDesign: Medical Innovation program, was created by students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and its affiliated Hadassah Medical Centre.
Up to 10 per cent of people with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer, which is associated by a type of nerve damage known as diabetic neuropathy, which can lead to amputation.
People who have had a longer duration of diabetes are more likely to develop foot ulcers; while poorly controlled diabetes, smoking, lack of physical activity, being overweight and having high blood pressure can also increase the risk. Moreover, poor-fitting footwear and walking barefoot can cause anatomical deformation, which can lead to foot ulcers.
Diabetic patients are encouraged to have their feet checked annually by their doctor, but ulcers are only diagnosed after they occur, increasing the risk of further complications.
Danny Bavli, the group’s lead engineer, said: “This is a significant medical problem that affects the lives of millions. We thought there must be a way to avoid these wounds altogether.”
Bavli’s team set about developing SenseGO, a sock containing dozens of micro-fabricated pressure sensors which can be machine-washed.
The sensors detect changes in pressure due to incorrect posture, anatomical deformation or ill-fitting shoes. These are then relayed to a smartphone app which informs the patient if there is a developing risk of a foot ulcer.
Prof. Yaakov Nahmias, BioDesign program director, added: “This is a classic mobile health approach. By giving patients and their families the tools they need to prevent the development of ulcers, we can dramatically reduce health care costs related to diabetes.”
Currently, the research is at a very early stage, and there is no word on when the device could be expected to launch in the UK.
In the meantime, people with diabetes should try to reduce their risk of foot ulcers by keeping good control of their blood glucose levels, eating a healthy diet and making sure they take care of their feet.