All people with diabetes are at risk of losing nerve sensation in their toes and feet. This complication can sadly lead to blisters and wounds which go unnoticed, become infected and result in ulcers and potential amputations. In England alone, there are more than 7,000 amputations every year related to ‘diabetic foot’. Despite efforts made in NHS, this number stubbornly continues to rise.
Knowing that nerves in your feet are damaged is vitally important – because this puts your feet at a higher risk of injury and requires you to be much more meticulous in your footcare.
Prof. Andrew Levy, at Bristol University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, has invented a clever tool that helps to quickly and easily identify an early sign of a problem with the feet – the inability of the nerves to distinguish between a touch and a vibration. The VibraTip®, a small battery operated device, emits a calibrated vibration when squeezed. Only the operator knows when the VibraTip® is active because the device runs silently. If the patient cannot distinguish between a touch with vibration and a touch without vibration at the end of the big toe, nerve damage is suspected and further tests and advice are needed.
Considering the ease, speed and reliability of this test, it’s not surprising that the VibraTip® is being used by more and more healthcare professionals around the world. The simplicity of the test also allows a family member or friend to check patients’ feet at home, looking for those early signs of any loss in protective nerve function.
Each device is individually blister-packed and can be used thousands of times before it needs replacing.