Peripheral neuropathy refers to the conditions that result when nerves that connect to the brain and spinal cord from the rest of the body are damaged or diseased. The peripheral nerves make up an intricate network that connects the brain and spinal cord to the muscles, skin and internal organs. Although it can hurt, nerve damage can also lessen your ability to feel pain, heat and cold. Loss of feeling often means you may not feel a foot injury. You could have a tack or stone in your shoe and walk on it all day without knowing. You could get a blister and not feel it. You might not notice a foot injury until the skin breaks down and becomes infected.
Although peripheral neuropathy can stem from a number of different causes such as vitamin deficiency, autoimmune disorders, alcoholism and kidney disease, the main cause is diabetes mellitus. No one knows for sure what causes this permanent nerve damage, however, studies have shown that maintaing tight blood sugar control can prevent the development and slow the progression of neuropathy.
When normal peripheral pain feedback is compromised or absent, irreversible damage can occur in under 15 minutes. Orpyx® hopes to be able to restore that communication gap through the SurroSense Rx™ system and SurroGait Rx™ system. The SurroSense Rx™ system (intended for patients with mild to moderate sensory loss) sends an alert to the wearer via wristwatch display or mobile app when excessive pressure thresholds are exceeded. The wearer is then able to offload pressure immediately to avoid further tissue damage. For those with moderate to severe sensory loss, the SurroGait Rx™ system transposes plantar pressure to a vibrotactile back pad. The wearer will essentially feel as though they're walking on their back and will be able to use that sensory substitute to alter their behaviour to avoid pressure induced damage.
1. "Understanding Peripheral Neuropathy - The Basics." WebMD. 14 March 2012. Accessed 9 July 2012.
2. "Living with Diabetes - Foot Complications." American Diabetes Association. Accessed 9 July 2012.