Diabetes Complications

Diabetes and Amputation

Diabetes, when present in the body over many years, can give rise to all sorts of complications. These include heart disease, kidney disease, retinopathy and neuropathy

If left untreated, some of these complications can become extremely damaging to the body.

Diabetes is a leading cause of amputation

The NHS reports that people who have diabetes are 15 times more likely to undergo amputations than other people without the condition.

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of amputation of the lower limbs throughout the world. Charity Diabetes UK notes that problems of the foot are the most frequent reasons for hospitalisation amongst patients who have diabetes.

Many hospital visits due to diabetes-related foot problems are preventable through simple foot care routines

All people who have diabetes should have foot check-ups as a part of their regular care routine.

What factors lead to amputation?

Several key factors usually predispose ulceration and ultimately amputation. These include:

How are these factors assessed?

Diabetic foot complications are more common amongst the elderly, and amputation rates do increase with age. For people over 75 years old, the risk does increase considerably.

All people who have diabetes should have a basic education in foot care, and beyond this they should have regular foot examinations

The risk for the development of ulceration can be assessed by basic clinical examination of the foot.

What are major and minor amputations?

Amputations in general, not just diabetes-related amputations, are classed as major and minor.

  • Minor amputation regards removal of toes or feet
  • Major amputation refers to the above or below the knee amputation.

One of the horror stories that go round is that people with diabetes are doomed to suffering amputations. Whilst it is true that people with diabetes have a higher statistical risk of amputation, it is largely a preventable fate.

Approximately 6,000 amputations are carried out each year for people with diabetes. Diabetes UK reports that, of these, around 80% are believed to be preventable. The NHS advises that amputation is commonly needed if damage occurs to the foot and gangrene sets in.

Damage to the foot could include any of the following:

  • Cuts
  • Blisters
  • Burns
  • Ulcers
  • Joint or bone problems

People with diabetes tend to be more at risk because high blood sugar levels, over a lengthy period of time, can lead to nerve damage and poor circulation Having nerve damage means that some people may not notice the pain that would signal damage to their foot.

Having poor blood circulation renders the body less able to heal the damage and fight infection.

Checking your feet each day can help you to spot damage that you may not feel. Look all around your foot for any signs of damage, including any changes in colour or swelling to your foot.

Diabetes UK recommends that if you notice any signs of damage, to arrange an appointment with your GP, nurse or podiatrist. Some people may find it harder to check their own feet. If this is the case, ask someone to check your feet for you.

Diabetes UK state that people with diabetes should have their feet checked once each year by a healthcare professional.

This is an important check that allows your doctor, nurse or podiatrist to spot any signs of nerve or circulation damage, or any damage to the foot that might develop.

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How should I identify a foot at risk from amputation?

Look for any signs of damage to the foot, this could be cuts, sores, burns, blisters or ulcers. In people with reduced circulation or sensation in the foot, even small damage could be significant.

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