'Smart socks' may prevent diabetic foot ulcer problems

Nahimas’ team believes the socks can cut down on healing costs.
Nahimas’ team believes the socks can cut down on healing costs.

Diabetic neuropathy is the leading cause of amputation in the United States, resulting in more than $10 billion in healthcare costs annually. A team of engineers is aiming to reduce that number — with a special pair of socks.

Engineers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's BioDesign: Medical Innovation Program and Hadassah Medical Center have developed a pair of “intelligent” socks filled with dozens of tiny pressure sensors, with the goal of stopping ulcers before they occur. 

Known as SenseGO, the socks continuously monitor foot pressure, stress and oxygen-saturation levels. Any changes in pressure due to incorrect posture, anatomical deformation or ill-fitting shoes are registered as electrical signals and sent to a patient or caregiver's smartphone app. 

Best of all? Despite their high-tech credentials, the SenseGO socks are machine washable.

SenseGO's creators believe the smart socks can help curb the formation of foot ulcers by alerting patients of their risk between their regular doctor check-ups. Diabetic ulcers are typically diagnosed only after they occur, the engineers note, so informing patients of their risk before the wound forms could cut down the time and costs associated with healing.

Diabetic foot ulcers affect more than 130 million people worldwide. 

“This is a classic mobile health approach,” wrote Yaakov Nahimas, Ph.D., program director for BioDesign.