This week on the Health Tech Weekly Podcast we look at a technology that might help a family member of yours soon who suffers from diabetes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) nearly 350 million people live with diabetes worldwide and it is considered a worldwide epidemic.
One of the side effects of the disease is that the nerves in the extremities like the feet become desensitized and many diabetics lose feeling in their feet entirely. This is a big problem because they no longer receive those pain, temperature or pressure signals that tell us when something is wrong with their feet. When they get injured their injuries quickly become infected without them noticing and often this can lead to having their feet or toes amputated.
But what if we could put something on their feet that would sense the same things that they can no longer feel on their own. Enter the spectacular German researchers at Fraunhofer who have developed a new electronic sensor stocking that monitors pressure on the foot and transmits that data to software. The software can alert the patient or caregiver to visually check and assess the foot allowing pressure sores and ulcers to be stopped before they form.
The special stocking uses a stretchy elastomer silicone film that can be easily added to any textile fabric. When pressure is sensed for an extended period that might result in injury, the film’s electronics alerts a smartphone app and the patient can move to relieve the pressure or inspect the area if there might have been an injury.
The stockings could be on the market soon and would cost around $250 a pair. This is much cheaper than the extensive wound care needed by most diabetics with pressure sores on their feet. It’s a few years away but this technology is likely to create a huge benefit to healthcare systems dealing with millions of aging diabetic patients with foot problems.
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