Having to amputate a toe, part of the foot, or the leg is incredibly unfortunate. What may feel even worse is informing the patient that the amputation is necessary. Most amputations are a result of a diabetic condition. Many of them could have been avoided by earlier intervention. Fortunately, the long-term outcome is often a good one. Many people can lead a normal life, which includes being active.
Chronically elevated blood sugar levels is responsible for the processes that impair the neurological, vascular, and immune systems; which can result in a variety of medical problems to the lower extremity of the patient with diabetes. Diabetic Neuropathy leaves the lower extremity vulnerable to silent and painless trauma. Poor blood flow fails to bring enough fresh blood and nutrients to the feet. An impaired immune system doesn’t have the ability to fight bacteria and cleanse a wound.
There are more than 90,000 lower extremity amputations performed on patients with diabetes every year. The direct cost of an amputation associated with the diabetic foot is estimated to be between $35,000 and $70,000. The total economic cost of diabetes in 2007 was estimated to be $174 billion. Not only is this a costly disease but also one that leads to loss of life. The mortality rate for a diabetic after an amputation is 40% at one year later and 80% at five years later.
The bright side of these grim statistics is a unique opportunity to impact your quality of life through a dedicated prevention program. Recent studies indicate that up to 85% of all lower extremity amputations can be prevented.
Here is a list of the five most important things you can do to decrease your risk of amputation:
- Inspect your feet daily for sores or other skin irritation even if it means using a mirror.
- Dry between your toes thoroughly to prevent moisture buildup that can lead to an infection.
- Have your feet measured every time you buy shoes. Wearing the correct size and style of shoe can’t be overstated.
- Be diligent about keeping your blood sugar under control.
- See a Podiatrist at least once a year for a thorough foot exam. Any problems that arise between annual visits must be addressed immediately.
This information isn’t meant to scare the person with diabetes but rather enlighten you to the seriousness of the disease and its potential impact on your feet and life. One small problem left untreated can lead to a catastrophe. Please don’t let it happen to you!