Simple plaster test could save people with diabetes from amputations

Simple plaster test could save people with diabetes from amputations

Neuropad has been featured in an article in the Mail on Sunday Health Supplement, written by Martyn Halle and Jonathan Neal.

A SIMPLE ten-minute DIY test can help spot the early signs of a potentially deadly foot problem that affects diabetics before symptoms strike.

The tiny stick-on plaster is able to flag up if a patient is suffering from peripheral neuropathy, where the nerves in the legs and feet lose function and sensitivity.

The condition hits half of people with diabetes and increases the risk that small cuts or blisters on the feet go unnoticed and infected ulcers form.

80,000 people have a foot ulcer diagnosed each year

Around 80,000 people have a foot ulcer diagnosed each year, which is difficult to treat and can become gangrenous. Numbers are rising by roughly 15 per cent annually. Diabetic foot ulcers lead to more than 180 amputations each week, and up to eight per cent of diabetes-related deaths are caused by foot disease.

People with diabetes are offered annual foot checks on the NHS, but many do not attend, and often the first time patients see a doctor is at an emergency appointment, by which time it is often too late.

The charity Diabetes UK estimates that up to 80 per cent of amputations could be avoided with better foot care.

The stick-on plaster, called Neuropad, could offer a simple solution. The pad is attached to the sole of the foot and left in place for ten minutes. It is blue to start with and should turn pink in the presence of moisture from sweating, to indicate a normal result.

If the Neuropad patch stays blue, or if it turns a patchy blue and pink, then this indicates the sweat glands are not working properly, meaning some level of nerve damage, as there is not enough moisture to complete the colour change.

The blue, patchy blue and pink, and pink states of the neuropad

John Simpson, the developer and head of Neuropad, has campaigned to see his plaster test become more widely accepted by the NHS.

Our plaster can be prescribed by a GP and is inexpensive at £14 when compared with the cost of treating a diabetic limb. If it has to be amputated, the cost to the NHS is £15,000. Then there are the added costs of caring for an amputee.

King’s College London diabetes expert Professor Alan Sinclair said:

Neuropad offers the opportunity to test for the early signs of distal neuropathy, which is an important risk factor for diabetic foot disease.

Other simple tests for neuropathy carried out by GPs involve examining the feet and testing sensations, however patients may need to explain whether or not they can feel certain sensations.

Professor Sinclair adds that, for this reason, Neuropad may be particularly helpful for those with severe frailty, dementia or other difficulties communicating. ‘It doesn’t require the person being examined to say anything,’ he explained.

With diabetes, the body stops producing enough of the hormone insulin, which is needed to transport sugar from the blood into cells where it can be used as energy.

Instead, the sugar builds up in the blood. In the short term this causes symptoms such as increased thirst, and subsequent need to urinate, fatigue and blurred vision. If not properly treated, over time, high blood sugar causes damage throughout the body. Alongside diabetic foot complications, the condition dramatically increases the risk of heart attacks, kidney disease and even blindness.

‘Four million Britons suffer from diabetes’

Treating diabetes, which affects around four million Britons, and the arising complications costs the NHS more than £14 billion a year — which equates to £25,000 spent on diabetes every minute.

Gary Fagg, Chairman of Trustees at the Paula Carr Diabetes Trust said:

If you have diabetes, your feet need special attention, because diabetes can reduce the supply of blood to your feet and cause a loss of feeling. People may not notice that they have lost the feeling in their feet, so there is a risk that a minor injury could develop into serious complications, including amputation due to gangrene. Neuropad is a simple pain-free patch test for the feet, will help people detect and avoid any problems early on.

Mr Simpson said:

The beauty of our test is that it can be done in the GP surgery by a practice nurse, or the patient can do it themselves at home. The fact that so many people are losing their limbs and their independence is very worrying.