Engineering students develop mat that helps diabetics save feet and legs from amputation

By @vitthernandez on
Foot in Pain
Foot pain can be an indicator of various conditions ranging from trauma to serious diseases. Orthopaedics would usually require some tests performed to determine what could be causing the discomfort. A miner rests his feet as he takes a break at a coal mine on the outskirts of Baokang, in central China's Hubei province, June 4, 2007. REUTERS/STRINGER

In response to a challenge by their professor at Jackson State University, some engineering students developed a mat that would help diabetics save their feet and legs from amputation. In the process of creating the mat, the students also uncovered an important issue concerning temperature of the lower limbs of people with diabetes.

A four-degree difference between the left and right feet over a period of time would place the foot or leg with lower temperature at higher risk of developing ulcers. Loss of feelings in the limbs could result in the diabetic unaware of ulcers that could eventually lead to amputation, said Jann Butler, one of the mat’s creator, reports Engadget.

Lack of ability to feel heat, cold, or pain on the lower limbs, due to uncontrolled diabetes, is called sensory diabetic neuropathy. A diabetic with this condition would not feel a sore or cut on the foot and the wound could become infected. Muscles of the foot also do not align properly and create so much pressure on one area, according to WebMD.

When the diabetic steps on the mat, it would detect the temperature of both feet and send the readings to an Android app. Butler has a personal experience in developing the mat because one of his aunts had her foot amputated because she developed foot ulcers that could have been prevented were there a technology to monitor foot temperature. Providing a device that acts as an early warning system of a possible circulation problem could help avert ulceration, says Gordon Skelton, the professor, reports TechTimes.

The team said it is still refining the mat and developing apps for other platforms. One change the team already made is to use a more waterproof sensor because moisture, due to wet feet, often causes inaccurate readings.  But if even the mat reaches production and retail stage, Butler estimates it would cost diabetics about $500 (AUD$714).