I’ve had the unfortunate task of amputating a toe on several occasions. What was even worse was having to inform my patient that surgery was necessary. All of the amputations were because of a diabetic infection. About half of them could’ve been avoided by earlier intervention. Fortunately, the outcome for all these patients was very good. They are walking comfortably and leading normal lives.
Chronically elevated blood sugar levels are responsible for the process that impairs 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 the 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 $30,000 and $60,000. 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 the loss of life. The mortality rate for patients with severe enough diabetes to require amputations is 40% at one year and 80% at five years.
The bright side of these grave 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 an amputation:
Inspect your feet daily for sores or other skin irritations even if it means using a mirror.
Dry between your toes thoroughly to prevent moisture buildup that can lead to 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 rather enlighten you to the seriousness of the disease and the potential impact on feet. One small problem left untreated can lead to a catastrophe. Please don’t let it happen to you.