Health experts say patients with diabetes have 30 times the risk of lower-extremity amputation than non-diabetics. Two-thirds of lower-extremity amputations are preceded by an infected foot wound.
Diabetics are advised to pay particular attention to the care of their feet. Ulcers are caused when the skin breaks down from irritation and pressure (like rubbing of a shoe). But even those who are meticulous about foot care can experience ulcers because they can't see the damage until the wound opens.
Days to weeks before a foot ulcer appears, there is a great deal of inflammation under the skin. The tissue becomes warmer and more sensitive. But diabetics with neuropathy can't feel anything "different".
Now, a device, called the TempTouch®, may help patients detect the underlying changes in tissue before the outbreak of an ulcer. TempTouch is an infrared thermometer. When the tip of the probe is placed on the foot, it measures the surface temperature of the skin. Patients measure the temperature on both feet and record the readings. The information can be used to track changes that may indicate an impending problem.
Podiatrist Lawrence Lavery, D.P.M., M.P.H., helped develop the TempTouch. He says a difference of four degrees between the two feet is generally a sign of some type of inflammation in the foot with the higher temperature. If a problem is detected, patients can take steps to modify their activities, protect the affected foot, and give time for the area to recover. Studies show patients who use the TempTouch are significantly less likely to develop a foot ulcer compared to patients who follow standard care.
The TempTouch was approved by the FDA in 2005. It costs $150.00 and is only available by prescription. The device is generally not yet covered by insurance companies. However, Xilas Medical, the company that makes TempTouch, has applied to the federal government for an insurance identification code that will enable consumers to have the device covered by Medicare and Medicaid. For more information, log onto the company's website at http://www.xilas.com/products-temptouch.php.