FOOT ulcers are a major complication for millions of people with type 2 diabetes. Now experts believe they have found a system to reduce the number of foot amputations among patients with diabetes.
Estimates indicate that as many as one-third of people with the disease will develop at least one foot ulcer over the course of their lifetime.
People with diabetes have a much greater risk of developing problems with their feet, due to the damage raised blood sugars can cause to sensation and circulation.
Experts have claimed morbidity and mortality associated with foot ulcers can go unrecognised by doctors and patients.
Jon Bloom, who worked at Massachusetts General Hospital said he has seen a number of foot amputations caused by foot ulcers.
His new startup called Podimetrics has developed a smart mat which can detect signs before foot ulcers develop. This, he said, could drastically reduce amputations and reduce medical costs.
The smart map is fitted with sensors which detect spikes in temperature in the foot – which are often a warning sign of ulcers.
The patient is supposed to stand on the mat for about 20 seconds every day, with the measurements being uploaded.
If an ulcer is sensed, it can send a message to the patient’s GP to treat the issue as early as possible.
A paper published in Diabetes Care revealed the mat has already detected 97 per cent of ulcers about five weeks before they were diagnosed by a doctor.
Foot ulcers are likely to get infected.
Diabetes UK said NHS England could save as much as £250million a year – a quarter of the £1 billion it spends on diabetes foot care.
The charity found significant savings could be made by improving foot care services and by reducing the number of foot ulcers in people with ulcers.
Speaking at the time, Chris Askew, Diabetes UK chief executive said there are more than 20 leg, foot or toe amputations, most of the resulting from a diabetic foot ulcer.
Experts have said people with diabetic foot ulcers are less able to feel pain. When ulcers are healed, as many as 40 per cent of patients will have recurrence of some kind in a year.
This rises to three-quarters of patients by five years.
Dr David G. Armstrong, professor of surgery and director of the Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance at the University of Arizona College of Medicine said: “People can wear a hole intheir foot just as you or I might wear a hole in a sock.
“These sores are covered up by a shoe or a sock, and very often a person with diabetes may feel little or no pain.”
The expert said developing a diabetic foot ulcer means a person’s chances of living an additional ten years are half that of someone who has not developed one.