High-Tech Footwear May Help Diabetics

North Texas researchers hope their development will help ward off diabetic foot ulcers, which can lead to amputation.

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Research scientists at The University of Texas at Arlington have developed footwear technology that may prevent the development of diabetic foot ulcers.

People with diabetic neuropathy deal with numbness in their legs and feet and are often unable to detect and respond to stress-related pain by adjusting their foot loading.

This can lead to open sores, or ulcers, which can become infected and require amputation.

Muthu Wijesundara is the principal research scientist and head of the Division of Biomedical Technologies at the University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute.

He and his team members have received a patent for a dual-layer shoe insole that automatically shifts the pressure on the bottom of the foot

Using fluid-filled cells, the insole provides variability in a person’s foot loading patterns to reduce prolonged pressure to any given area.

The insole can automatically adjust without help from the patient and is designed to accommodate people of various weights.

"The user doesn't have to do anything to change the walking pattern to relieve the pressure. That insole will do itself," says Wijesundara.

Diabetes is a leading cause of amputation worldwide.

Foot ulcers affect about 15% of diabetics.

"Unfortunately, diabetic foot ulcers are quite common and unfortunately, they're quite common to go onto become a total amputation," said Dr. Maxine Theriot, a wound care specialist.

Dr. Theriot says diabetic foot ulcers can quickly lead to complications, sometimes in as little as three days, because of a patient's already compromised immune system.

"Individuals are strongly encouraged to check their feet every day if they have diabetes, especially if you have some sort of abnormality to your foot already," said Theriot.

Wijesundara’s team is working with the UT Southwestern Medical Center on a pilot study funded by the National Institutes of Health to test initial prototypes.

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