Researchers developing phone app for managing diabetes

Researchers are developing a smart phone application to help people better manage their diabetes, according to the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

The “sugar” app would connect wirelessly to a personal glucose meter and scale. It would collect and record blood glucose and weight readings. To help patients make better diabetes management decisions, the app will generate specific messages based on those tracked measurements.

The app would also use the smart phone's camera to capture and analyze images of foot lesions, a grave complication of uncontrolled diabetes. Checking the feet daily may help patients avoid untreated ulcers that lead to infections and foot amputations.

The medical school is working on the four-year project with Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) funded by a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

“Many with diabetes will tell you that managing their illness is like a second and demanding full time job. And that is especially true if complications, like foot ulcers, arise," said David Harlan, MD, professor of medicine and pediatrics and co-director of the UMass Memorial Health Care Diabetes Center of Excellence.

"All our clinical care delivery efforts are designed to support patients so that much of their care can be delivered in the home, when it is convenient for them with their busy lives,” said Harlan. “Until we can eliminate any of our patients from suffering wound ulcers, which is our ultimate goal, we're terrifically excited by the work we're doing with the WPI team to facilitate proper wound care, and thereby avoid amputations."

Foot lesions often occur on the ball of the foot or the bottom of the big toe, according to the American Diabetes Association. Patients may not even notice a foot injury until a lesion forms and becomes infected. Foot lesions are most often a result of neuropathy, a type of diabetic nerve damage that causes loss of feeling in the feet.

Sources: University of Massachusetts Medical School, American Diabetes Association

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