Diabetic neuropathy (DPN) is asymptomatic in its early phases but can cause serious complications as it progresses. Most DPN tests are cumbersome and produce only qualitative assessments, and simpler approaches that yield quantitative results are needed. Techniques that allow patients to perform examinations themselves would be especially valuable. In this study, we focused on quantifying the decline in tactile sensation associated with DPN and developed a measurement device that used a thin shape memory alloy (SMA) wire as the actuator. An ON/OFF pulse current caused the wire to shrink and expand. This vibration was amplified by a round-headed pin, allowing even DPN patients with reduced tactile sensitivity to detect the stimuli generated when lightly touching the pin with their fingertips. The tactile stimuli were ranked into 30 levels of intensity. A key advantage of the device is that it can be used by patients themselves, returning quantified results within minutes. Although developed for DPN, the method can be applied to the detection of peripheral neuropathy in general.
Part of the book: Actuators