A new high-tech aid to help people with diabetes keep their feet healthy has been launched to mark World Diabetes Day.
The foot module is the latest addition to the successful DiabetesClinic@Home app which began as a way of tackling the challenges of supporting people with diabetes through the pandemic and to compliment virtual appointments.
Developed by a partnership of NHS diabetes specialists, academics from Swansea University, patient groups, Eli Lilly and Company Ltd (Lilly UK) and Swansea Bay University Health Board, the app is a digital resource and patient education tool.
The first module of the app helps people with diabetes check for the abnormal distribution of fat under the skin, known as lipos. These are caused by injecting insulin repeatedly into the same area and could not detected by healthcare professionals during virtual appointments.
Lipos, or lipohypertrophy, can affect blood sugar (glucose) levels because insulin injected into a site with a lipo does not diffuse and will not have the desired effect.
The second module aims to help people with diabetes without known foot problems to check their feet.
Dr Rebecca Thomas, co-programme director for the MSc Diabetes Practice course at Swansea University, said the new module provides education on the importance of foot checks, foot care, self-examination and when to seek help.
Dr Thomas said: “We know people with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing foot problems due to high blood glucose levels damaging nerves and circulation and decreasing wound healing.
“Damage to nerves (diabetic neuropathy) in the feet can decrease sensation meaning they will be less likely to feel any cuts or abrasions, which if not treated can quickly develop into ulcers and infections and at worse lead to amputations.
“So, it is important for people with diabetes to know how to look after their feet and how to check them daily, particularly if they have diabetic neuropathy. This new module highlights how people can check their sensation themselves. It is vital to detect problems early when they are easily treatable.”
The new module will be officially launched at a special event being hosted by Diabetes UK Cymru at the pierhead, Senedd Cymru to mark World Diabetes Day on Tuesday, November 14. This year’s theme is the prevention of diabetes-related complications which the team say makes the module’s launch particularly timely.
A University team led by diabetes clinical lead Professor Steve Bain and including Dr Thomas, co-programme director Dr Sarah Prior and learning technologist Dave Ruckley, worked with NHS teams and Lilly UK to develop the app and its content.
Professor Bain said: “The move to virtual outpatient reviews for people with diabetes during the Covid-19 pandemic led to a rethink about how routine physical examinations could happen. The development of an app to guide self-examination of the feet for people living with diabetes is a response to this dilemma, which should enable people to safely continue with virtual reviews, where this fits better with their individual needs.”
The project is an example of the kind of innovative learning and expertise available through the MSc programme offered at the University which aims to help the field of diabetes care and research.