Ten to fifteen percent of diabetics will suffer a foot ulcer over the course of their lifetime. A wound that won’t heal may not sound like such a big deal, but the longer it takes for a wound to heal, the longer it is at risk of becoming infected. Worse yet, the risk of amputation correlates with an increase in mortality within the next five years! Researchers are scrambling to find new ways of helping diabetics prevent the complications associated with a foot ulcer through early detection. Our product — the SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer — helps diabetics keep their footwear free from bacteria, viruses, and fungi, but we are also interested in the latest scientific development, such as ulcer-detecting socks.
SmartSox Promises to Detect Diabetic Foot Ulcers
University of Arizona engineers have developed what the Arizona Daily Star calls “the most expensive pair of socks in the world” — with a current price tag starting at $70,000. By using microscopic pressure sensors and a sophisticated fiber optic light transmission system, they are able to detect heat, odd joint angles, and excessive pressure — all which lead to foot ulcers over time. The socks are ready for 120 diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy and a history of foot ulcers to test drive them in clinical trials, which will start this April and take up to two years to complete. The study participants will take 20 steps in the socks and researchers will use the data collected to predict whether or not the patients are likely to develop a foot ulcer. One year later, they will follow up to check their accuracy.
Other Smart Socks in Development
Meanwhile, Footfalls and Heartbeats is collaborating with the University of Nottingham (UK) on similar smart sock technology. The socks are made from plastic fiber optics that “shine a light on the skin to measure how well blood is pumping through the capillaries,” says New Scientist. Slow capillary refill will then trigger an alert sent to the patient who will need to put his or her feet up and call a doctor. There’s no word on how much these socks might run.
Preventing Diabetic Foot Ulcers
If you discover a foot ulcer early, you can ask your doctor about treatment with EpiFix, a human amniotic membrane allograft that prompts the body to reduce inflammation and heal the area more quickly. But the cool thing about smart socks is that they would alert you to risk factors before a foot ulcer ever rears its ugly head! Often, a simple change in footwear type can offload pressure and help you avoid a break in the skin in the first place.