For the thousands of people in the UK with diabetes, foot ulcers are a huge problem — at least one in ten will develop one at some point and a quarter of them will require amputation of all or part of the foot.
But a new camera could spot these dangerous ulcers before they show up.
The device, roughly the size of a regular camera, has temperature sensors that detect ‘hot spots’ on the feet. These indicate an ulcer may develop in a few days or weeks.
Ulcers are infected sores that develop due to pressure, rubbing or injury. These areas are caused by inflammation under the skin which develops when blood circulation is reduced.
Up to 50 per cent of diabetes patients have some form of nerve damage or diabetic neuropathy, where uncontrolled high blood sugar levels damage the walls of tiny blood vessels that supply the nerves, especially in the legs. This can lead to symptoms such as loss of sensation and means patients feel little pain, so scratches can go unnoticed and become infected.
The whole process — from initial damage to amputation — can take less than a week. Spotting the first signs of an ulcer and acting swiftly is therefore vital.
The only outward sign of a looming ulcer is an increase in temperature in the affected area, resulting from inflammation in response to the damage.