Diabetes patients often develop peripheral neuropathy, i.e. nerve damage in the upper and lower limbs, causing pain or loss of feeling in the toes, feet, legs, hands, and arms. As a consequence blisters and sores may appear on numb areas of the feet because pressure or injury goes unnoticed, resulting in spread infection and limb amputation if not treated in time.
About 60 to 70% of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy. People with diabetes can develop nerve problems at any time, but risk rises with age and longer duration of diabetes. Diabetic neuropathies also appear to be more common in people who have problems controlling their blood glucose, also called blood sugar, as well as those with high levels of blood fat and blood pressure and those who are overweight.
Some people with nerve damage have no symptoms and in early stages this condition may be unnoticed. However, it is important to diagnose it early as it may be an indicator of poor blood sugar control. Moreover, protective measures can be taken to prevent feet injuries.
The aim of this thesis is to analyse the walking patterns of diabetic patients and identify early signs of peripheral neuropathy as it may also cause muscle weakness and loss of reflexes, especially at the ankle, leading to changes in the way a person walks.
Walking data from the inertial sensors built-in a smartphone or external will be collected from diabetes patients without peripheral neuropathy and with early stages of peripheral neuropathy. A gait analysis will be performed to identify the parameters that allow discriminating early peripheral neuropathy stages.
This project extends our knowledge in gait analysis to a different application area. It can set the ground for the development of an integrated mobile solution for self-management of diabetes.
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