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Diabetes: Delaying Action Could Lead To Amputation

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Diabetes is the primary cause of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations, globally. In 2000 it was estimated that “every 30 seconds, a lower limb is cut off somewhere in the world”.

Ever since, the estimated number of people with diabetes internationally has actually doubled– raising severe concern for this blowing up illness and the toll it is handling societies worldwide, including here in South Africa, where there is an approximated 2.2 million people living with diabetes.

The loss of a limb has a significant effect on the specific and might lead to mental stress, depression, transformed body image, loss of movement, decreased lifestyle and sometimes, loss of work.

Amputation also places an economic burden on the individual, with the expense of a prosthetic limb typically posing as the greatest difficulty. Expenses related to long term hospitalization, rehabilitation and an increased requirement for home care and social services, may put even more pressure on the individual and healthcare system.

It is approximated that 60% of non-traumatic lower limb amputations in public healthcare facilities in South Africa are related to diabetes problems. As a diabetic, when your blood sugar level boosts and remains high over an extended period of time– your diabetes is considered to be unrestrained – and this can have harmful impacts.

Unchecked diabetes impacts the heart and blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, nerves and teeth.

Nerve damage and bad blood circulation can result in foot complications in diabetic patients with poor glucose control. Nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) could result in loss of sensation in the affected area, commonly in the foot.

The loss of feeling frequently implies that a foot injury (such as blister) goes unnoticed. In addition, many people with diabetes establish Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) which triggers blood vessels to narrow or be blocked by fatty deposits decreasing the blood circulation to the legs and feet.

Great blood circulation helps the body to fight infections and to heal wounds. For that reason, with poor blood circulation, injuries, such as foot ulcers, are at risk of becoming infected and this may lead to amputation.

For diabetes patients, common foot issues can result in dire outcomes. For this reason, clients dealing with diabetes should take good care of their feet and not delay speaking with a health care professional concerning foot issues.

In addition to handling blood glucose levels, diabetes clients must adopt appropriate foot care practices, such as:

• Checking your feet every day for foot problems (e.g. colour change, swelling, breaks in the skin, pain or numbness)

• Wearing well-fitting, comfortable shoes

• Never walking barefoot, to avoid foot injuries

• Proper hygiene (daily washing and careful drying)

• Careful nail care

• Promoting blood flow to your feet by, for example, raising them up when sitting

The IDF reports that the danger of amputation for people with diabetes is 25 times greater than that in people without diabetes. However, through great diabetes management and not delaying action, numerous amputations might be avoided.