Individuals with diabetes have an increased risk of amputation, most often that being a lower limb amputation. You might be asking yourself, ‘what is diabetes?’ There are two types of diabetes, a smaller percentage of people are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, typically when they are a child, teen or young adult. It comes quickly when the body starts to attack itself and stops making insulin. With Type 1 diabetes, insulin needs to be administrated every day in order to survive. Over 90% of people who are diagnosed with diabetes, are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. It typically shows up in adults when their body is no longer able to use natural insulin which causes their blood sugar levels to be irregular. Type 2 diabetes can often be controlled by diet and exercise.
Why Does Diabetes Lead to Amputation?
Nerve damage and circulation issues are much more common in people who are diagnosed with diabetes, such as peripheral arterial disease (PAD) peripheral vascular disease (PVD) which causes blood vessels to narrow and reduces blood flow to the lower body is common. This can lead to neuropathy which prevents those from feeling pain. With the combination of these two conditions if a wound or ulcer shows up on the feet or legs it can go unnoticed with a high chance of becoming infected. Wounds require good blood flow in order to heal. Those with PAD have low blood flow which slows down healing or worse yet not allow it to heal at all. If the damage becomes irreversible, this is what will lead to amputation of a lower limb.
How to Avoid Amputation with Diabetes
The first step to avoid amputation while having diabetes is to work with your doctor to find strategies to get your blood sugar levels under control. Outside of medication, some steps that you can take are to eat a healthy well-balanced diet. This includes vegetables and protein while avoiding carbohydrates and high sugar foods as they increase the body’s need to process sugar which spikes the blood sugar levels, amplifying the symptoms.
Keeping the body active can help with blood flow and decrease the risk of PAD and neuropathy in the lower body. If these two conditions are avoided it is a lot less likely things like infections, ulcers, ingrown toenails and gout can lead to further complications such as amputation. If PAD and neuropathy are present it is important to check your feet daily to make sure there is nothing dangerous developing. If it is difficult to check, a mirror can be used or ask a family member or friend to help. Other precautions such as not going barefoot indoors or outdoors, cutting your toenails straight across and not too short, not soaking feet in water, wearing closed-toe shoes that are not pointy at the end and not removing growths (warts, bunions, corns) without the assistance of a medical doctor can help to avoid any serious infection leading to amputation.