Preventing Amputations in Diabetes – is Technology the Answer?
Diabetes is the leading cause of amputations all over the world, yet most people don’t know much about it. The sad thing is that according to official estimates around 85% of all amputations that are performed were perfectly preventable if treatment had been administered in time. The same is true for diabetes patients that end up needing amputations. If their problem had been diagnosed in time, they would still have the limb that had to be removed.
Why Amputations Are Such a Big Problem in Diabetes
One would think that someone who needs amputations will be in severe trouble, and us normal people have nothing to worry about. This line of thinking is exactly why amputations are such a big problem for diabetic patients. The need for an amputation seems like something that will come with a lot of warning signs, but instead it can sneak up on people who would never suspect such a thing to happen to them.
Amputations are needed because the foot is so infected that if it is not amputated the infection will spread all over the body and kill the patient. It is important to note that patients and doctors absolutely want to avoid amputations wherever possible, but in some cases, there is simply no choice. Under normal conditions when you hurt your foot and it starts getting infected, it hurts a lot, which results in you going to the doctor, who then cleans the wound and closes it, thus making sure there will be no need for amputation.
Things are different for diabetes patients. Peripheral Arterial Disease is common in diabetes patients, especially the ones that are older. This disease results in the nerve endings not working properly in the limbs. So, you may have a wound on your foot that you will not be able to feel. This wound can then become infected to the point that amputation is needed, without you ever realizing that there is a problem. This happens due to a combination of factors. When you have diabetes, your immune system is compromised, and wounds take even longer to heal, which only increases the chance of infections.
Finding Solutions in Technology
The problem is that people cannot properly check their own feet from all angles, and even if they can touch all parts of their foot, they may not detect anything wrong. We also cannot expect patients to visit the doctor to get their feet checked once a week for their whole life – it would be impossible, considering the hundreds of millions of people that have diabetes in the world.
One company has come up with a technological solution to the problem. Bonbouton, a wearable technology company, has developed a graphene based device which can detect foot problems in diabetes patients. This is accomplished by 24/7 monitoring of the feet through their product, which is still being tested and may be in markets by 2018. It will allow diabetes patients to ensure that their feet are healthy and that they will never need amputations by alerting them the moment there is a need to go to the doctor.