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Shoe tech could help prevent diabetic amputations

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Researchers in the US have developed a new shoe insole technology that helps reduce the risk of diabetic foot ulcers, a dangerous open sore that can lead to hospitalisation and leg, foot or toe amputations.

Diabetes affects about 39 million people in the US and can damage the small blood vessels that supply blood to the nerves, leading to poor circulation and foot sores, also called ulcers.

About a third of people with diabetes develop foot ulcers during their lifetime.

In the US more than 160,000 lower extremity amputations are performed annually due to complications from diabetic foot ulcers, costing the American health system about $30 billion (£24 billion) a year.

Those who have foot ulcers often die at younger ages than those without ulcers.

Muthu B.J. Wijesundara is principal research scientist at The University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute (UTARI).

The researcher explained that the aim of the insole technology is to mitigate the risk of diabetic foot ulcers by addressing skin and soft tissue breakdown due to repetitive stress on the foot during walking.

While many shoe insoles have been created over the years to try to alleviate the problem of foot ulcers, studies have shown that they have only been marginally successful at preventiong them.

Wijesundara said: “We took the research a step further by creating a pressure-alternating shoe insole that works by cyclically relieving pressure from different areas of the foot, thereby providing periods of rest to the soft tissues and improving blood flow.

“This approach aims to maintain the health of the skin and tissues, thereby reducing the risk of diabetic foot ulcers.”

After the successful pilot project, the next step for the research team will be refining the technology to make it more accessible for users with varying weights and shoe sizes.

Wijesundara said: “Considering the impact of foot ulcers, it’s exciting that we may be able to make a real difference in the lives of so many people.”

Photo courtesy UT Arlington

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