Swedish researchers have identified a simple way to reduce diabetes-related amputations by half: Shoe inserts that minimize the risk of foot ulcers.
Medical investigators with the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, noted health statistics indicate every 30 seconds a doctor performs an amputation as a result of foot complications due to diabetes somewhere in the world.
But the chief cause of those procedures — foot ulcers that don’t heal properly — can be prevented by shoe inserts that protect the foot from overloading the sole and causing such sores, along with regular podiatry checkups.
"We found that good shoes and inserts can reduce pressure on the foot by 50 percent compared with going barefoot," said researcher Ulla Tang says. "Our conclusion at the end of one year is that … inserts effectively distribute pressure under the sole in order to minimize the risk of ulcers."
The findings cap five years of study by the Gothenburg researchers of diabetic foot complications. Their work focused on 114 Swedish patients with diabetes at risk of developing such ulcers.
The participants in the study — to be presented at the International Conference on Prosthetics and Orthotics in India next month —wore one of three different types of shoe inserts over a period of two years.
Only 0.9 percent of the participants developed new foot ulcers during the first year, compared to 3-8 percent of diabetics who typically report such sores.
"Ulcer prevention is not only a way of relieving suffering but a sound financial investment," Tang said, noting amputation is far more costly than shoe inserts — in personal and monetary terms.
The researchers have also developed a new digital tool doctors can use to assess the risk for foot ulcer easily and prescribe suitable shoes and insoles.
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