Why Diabetic Foot Amputation Is Done And How to Prevent It

lady with no legs in the water

Diabetes is a sneaky life-long disease that can result in limb amputations. This can then lead to low quality of life, increased medical costs, and high mortality. The National Diabetes Statistics Report gave an outline of 108,000 adults with feet amputations, associated with diabetes, in 2014. This is an equivalent of 5 in 1000 patients. Statistics conducted under the guidelines of Preferred Reporting Items for Systemic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) show that between 78-704 people in 100,000 patients with diabetes end in amputations every year.

What are the Current Diabetic Foot Amputation Statistics?

Research shows that globally, in every 30 seconds, there is a diabetes patient losing a limb. A different 2012 study found that foot ulcer was reported in about 4-10 percent of diabetic patients. 5-24 percent of the ulcer cases end in toe or foot amputations.

People with diabetes are prone to circulation problems and nerve damage. The two complications can then result in toe, foot, or leg amputations. Reduced blood flow to the lower extremities has been linked to heightened occurrences of wounds that take too much time to heal. Should the patient develop diabetic neuropathy and lose the sense of feeling in the feet, they may not notice the ulcers before they become too severe and hard to control. P.A.D is often to blame for the ulcers likely to progress to osteomyelitis or an infection in the bone, and finally the loss of a limb.

Chronic ulcers in the feet are susceptible to osteomyelitis. If you have an ulcer in your foot that has been infected for over 6 weeks and has swelling especially in the toes, osteomyelitis could be present. Inflammatory markers such as a rise in blood glucose should prompt your doctor to perform further x-ray tests to evaluate osteomyelitis. Despite the increased risk of amputations when having diabetes, several measures can be taken to prevent it. Some of the measures include wearing compression stockings and diabetic shoes, managing your blood sugars, and taking extra care of your feet, inspecting them daily.

Previous reports show that diabetes patients who have undergone amputations have had a high risk of mortality. Studies show that patients who undergo amputation surgeries have a 5-year survival rate of about 40-48 percent without factoring in the etiology of the procedure.

man with artificial arm

Diabetic Foot Amputation Risk Factors

Several factors can result in the loss of a limb in people with diabetes, but most are as a result of infected and poorly healing wounds. All diabetes patients have a 15 percent risk of developing foot ulcers. The goal of treating an ulcer is to keep the infected area clean, remove dead tissue, and promote healing. If the applied treatment fails to remove the affected tissue, foot amputation may be the only available option. Factors that increase the possibility of foot, toe, or leg amputation include:

  1. Peripheral neuropathy: This is a condition that leads to the numbness and lack of sensation in the feet. It means with this condition you cannot feel the presence of a wound. Failing to notice the presence of wound particularly at the bottom of your feet could lead to a life-threatening infection.
  2. Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): Responsible for at least 80 percent of all foot amputations for people with diabetes, this condition prevents the adequate flow of blood in the lower extremities due to clogged arteries. It causes the slow healing of wounds, heightening the risk of infections and foot amputation.
  3. Calluses: If you have diabetes and notice the presence of corns and calluses, report to your doctor immediately. This is usually the first sign of wounds. Trying to remove them on your own, also referred to as “bathroom surgery”, can cause a non-healing ulcer to develop. Which may lead to the need for amputation if the infection worsens. Also, do not use any over-the-counter products to get rid of the calluses and warts.

Not all diabetes patients go through amputations. The procedure is only undertaken when an ulcer fails to heal. Most procedures are progressive, whereby the doctor begins by amputating the least tissues. Should blood flow still not reach the limb properly, further surgery is required. When a certain part of your body, in this case, your foot is not receiving sufficient blood, that state is referred to as gangrene.

Gangrene which mostly affects the toes causes tissues to die and is a leading manifestation of severe limb ischemia, resulting in amputations . It is characterized by an unusual formation of pus, numbness, and skin discoloration.  There are plenty of stock images, photos, and videos you can get online illustrating this condition. Should you notice the following warning signs, report to your doctor to prevent possible foot amputation:

  • Blisters
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Swelling
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Sores
  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Ulcers lasting more than a week
  • Redness
  • Skin color changes
man with right leg in a cast

What you can do to Prevent Amputation

Patients with diabetes, without the symptoms of a serious problem tend to think that their condition is under control. However, failing to control your blood sugars can quickly trigger the impacts. You can control your blood sugar with stevia. Check with your doctor on the diabetes medications to take and the diet to include in your meal plan. Make regular checking of your feet for possible concerns a daily routine. Keep your feet healthy with the following tips:

  • Clean your feet with warm water every day.
  • Never remove bunions or calluses. A podiatrist or a doctor should help you get rid of them
  • Trim your nails across without cutting them too short
  • Wear closed toe-shoes outdoors

A lot of studies have focused on diabetic foot syndrome on amputation and prevention, but most have not investigated the long-term prognosis of the loss of a limb. The few studies conducted show that prognosis attributes to 3-year mortality of 35-50 percent, with amputation leading to a severe reduction of survival.

Foot amputation is usually the last resort when no other form of treatment is available. Should you undergo any amputations, do not neglect your treatment plan. Statistical indications show that patients who have had one amputation have a higher risk of going through another. Be sure to exercise, eat healthy, and control your blood sugar levels. Read this article about eating carrots for diabetes.