A Smart Mat to Catch Neuropathy
College students in Mississippi have developed a mat that may assist in tracking the temperature of feet. Lower temperatures in the feet could be a sign of neuropathy, or nerve damage caused by sustained and untreated high blood sugar levels. Neuropathy, which tends to develop more often in the hands and feet, can lead to a number of health complications, and ultimately amputation, if left untreated.
According to a profile, Jackson State University seniors Jann Butler and Chevan Baker, along with two fellow seniors, have developed a temperature-sensing mat to assist in identifying poor circulation in feet. Dubbed the “Smart Mat,” it serves as a way to alert patients of neuropathy before the condition can cause problems. The idea came to Butler, he says, after he watched his aunt endure an amputation due to ulcers on her feet.
The mat works by analyzing the individual temperatures of both feet. If the individual temperatures are different, it may signify poor circulation in the foot with the lower temperature. The mat then alerts the user of the condition by sending data from the mat to an app on the user’s phone for easy viewing.
The mat could help to address the health complications that can be caused by poor circulation in the feet, which is common among people with diabetes. These problems can be exacerbated by diabetic neuropathy, which damages the nerves in the feet, making it harder to detect when there is a more serious health problem, such as ulcers. Poor circulation also makes it more difficult for ulcers to heal, since there is less oxygenated blood flowing to the affected area.
According to the Amputee Coalition, over half the amputations in America done each year are due to complications from diabetes. Catching the onset of neuropathy and treating issues early are vital steps in improved health for millions of Americans.
The idea for the mat evolved from a senior design project that challenged students to find solutions to real problems,” according to Dr. Gordon Skelton, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the university. The team is now exploring the possibility of getting the mat, which costs about $500 to make, into the mainstream market.
Developments like the Smart Mat can go a long way towards providing new tools in the prevention of amputations. Until a smart mart is available on the market, however, the best thing someone with diabetes can do is examine his or her feet each day for potential problems and seek treatment right away if problems arise.