Estimates indicate that as many as one-third of people with the disease will develop at least one-foot ulcer over the course of their lifetime.
People with diabetes have a much greater risk of developing problems with their feet, due to the damage raised blood sugars can cause to sensation and circulation.
It is vital people with diabetes have regular foot checks.
The development of foot ulcers and the loss of sensation in the feet and toes can create a cycle of tissue damage and other foot complications.
However, now University researchers have developed an app to help medical professionals take consistent photographs of the underside of diabetics’ feet in order to better detect foot ulcers and monitor treatment.
Dr. Moi Hoon Yap, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, and Professor Neil Reeves, professor of Musculoskeletal Biomechanics at The Manchester Metropolitan University – created FootSnap to run on an iPad tablet device.
With the aid of a tripod and a portable LED spotlight, FootSnap assists clinicians to capture uniform images of the bottom of someone’s feet.
It allows changes in a patient’s physiology to be more easily tracked and compared over time, with the aim of leading to a timely diagnosis of abnormalities or disease.
Professor Reeves said: “A diabetic foot ulcer is an open wound on the foot and represents a major problem for people with diabetes, being very difficult to heal and in some cases leading on to amputation.
“The app that we have developed at the moment standardizes foot photographs.
“Feet may not necessarily be photographed by clinicians at the moment.
“If they are, the pictures are not standardised for distance, orientation and lighting as we do with this app.
“The standardisation feature of the app is, however, only the first stage of what we will go onto achieve.
“We are now incorporating more sophisticated algorithms, which allow for state-of-the-art monitoring and prevention of foot ulceration over time.
“This will be a very useful clinical tool for healthcare professionals to monitor ulcer healing and is a major advantage over the current approach, which is mainly based on subjective judgement.”
FootSnap, developed with the help of PhD researchers, guides medical professionals to orientate and align the patient’s foot in such a way as to build up a portfolio of uniform images for comparison.
The app should be available to download in the near future and the developers envisage further evolution of the program will enable it to be used on smartphones and other devices and by less well-trained operators.
Dr. Yap said: “FootSnap is a mobile application based on the concept of data-driven research and Internet of Things.
“It was embedded with image processing algorithms to enable standardization of data capturing.
“With Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, we collected a large-scale dataset with ground truth annotation of the ulcers.
“In the near future, the optimised light-weight deep learning model will be integrated into FootSnap to enable early prediction of diabetic foot ulcers.”
This comes after a woman issued a warning about life-threatening ketoacidosis