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Diabetes can lead to several health complications, such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, and foot problems. People with diabetes usually suffer from diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage from high blood sugar. Because of neuropathy, weakness and numbness in the feet and toes can result in serious foot problems. A unique foot monitoring system has been developed that consistently tracks temperature to alert patients with diabetes about foot problems.
Socks and Foot Monitoring System for Diabetes
Peripheral neuropathy is characterized by a weakness, numbness or pain due to the damage to the peripheral nerves in the hands and feet. The condition is caused by several factors such as infections, injuries from trauma, exposure to toxins, and metabolic disorders like diabetes mellitus.
Diabetic neuropathy is a condition characterized by damaged nerves from high glucose levels in the blood. It usually occurs in the extremities but may also affect other parts of the body, such as the digestive system, the urinary tract, and the cardiovascular system. Some cases of diabetic neuropathy are mild, but there are severe cases that can lead to disability and fatality.
Clinical signs of diabetic neuropathy affecting the hands and feet include:
- Numbness, weakness or pain.
- Reduced sensation of pain or temperature changes.
- Burning or tingling sensation.
- Cramps or pains in the affected area.
- Loss of balance and coordination.
In addition to the issues with sensation, the condition can also manifest through serious foot problems including foot ulcers, deformities, and even infections. A company in San Francisco called Siren is developing a wearable technology focused on detecting, monitoring, and tracking health. Their first product, Siren Diabetic Socks, are a part of their technology and it serves as a monitoring aid for foot temperature which helps prevent foot ulcers.
“We built this technology because foot ulcers are the most common, costly, and deadly complication for people with diabetes, yet there was no way to continuously monitor for these massive problems,” said Ran Ma, CEO of Siren.
Up to 10 percent of all people with diabetes developed a foot ulcer at some point, according to medical experts. Diabetic foot ulcers form when the skin on the legs or feet are broken or torn down. It can even form from the mildest break in the skin. The breakage does not heal properly because of the nerve damage caused by very high sugar in the bloodstream.
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And since people with diabetes have the reduced ability to feel sensation in the lower extremities, they will not feel the bruises, blisters, cuts or even punctures that can lead to major infections. Moreover, the poor blood circulation in the hands and feet also significantly reduces the body's ability to heal the wound.
The high-tech socks have very tiny sensors woven directly into the fabric that monitor changes in foot temperature, which warn people with diabetic neuropathy about potential injuries. The temperature changes measured by the socks include signs of inflammation which is the precursor of foot ulcers.
The sensors work by sending a signal to a small tag attached to the socks. The tag transmits the temperature data via Bluetooth connectivity to a specialized app, which should be installed on the user’s smartphone.
“Our Neurofabric has endless applications across healthcare, sports, military, and fashion, but it was obvious to us that solving this specific problem is where we had to start because it impacts so many and can mean the difference between losing a limb or not,” added Ran Ma.
The socks are only recommended to be worn for up to six months. And any deformities or holes in the socks cannot provide optimal protection.
Other Wearable Technologies for Diabetes
There are other wearable technologies available to help people with diabetes. These devices are designed to monitor blood sugar levels to avoid health complications.
1. The K’Track Glucose is a device worn on the wrist that measures blood sugar levels within seconds. It uses a biosensor to accurately measure glucose levels instead of miniature blood tests.
2. The One Touch Via is an on-demand insulin delivery device for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The insulin patch is free of injection, water-resistant, works through clothing, and can be worn for three days.
3. The Diabetes Sentry is a non-invasive, wearable device worn on the wrist, ankle or bicep of the user. It sends an alert to the user if their blood sugar levels are dropping, which usually leads to hypoglycemia, increased perspiration, and drop in skin temperature.
People with diabetes are required to be vigilant in managing their blood sugar levels. But there are other factors that need monitoring as well, such as temperature in extremities, skin health, and eye health, to prevent the occurrence of serious complications from the metabolic disorder.
[메디컬리포트=Ralph Chen 기자]