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Diabetes can Lead to Foot And Leg Amputation

How Can Diabetes Lead to Foot And Leg Amputation?

by Samuel Gagne 24 Oct 2022

Diabetes mellitus is a condition that impacts people’s lives in many ways: you should always be aware of what you eat, keep track of blood sugar levels, take medications on time, and be careful and disciplined in general. The one thing rarely discussed among patients is the danger of diabetic foot ulcers and the way they can even lead to diabetes leg amputation. Yes, you’ve heard us right.

The thing is, these sores usually develop because of poor blood circulation and irregular sugar levels, and they may occur even because of the slightest injuries. Unfortunately, according to the latest statistics, up to 85% of diabetics suffer from this problem and undergo minimal amputation. However, there are some ways to keep feet and legs healthy and take this condition under control, and that’s exactly what we are going to talk about today. Continue reading to find out more valuable information on this topic.

Why Do Diabetics Lose Limbs?

Diabetes is an illness tightly connected with two other health conditions – diabetic neuropathy and peripheral artery disease; they usually seriously increase the chances of a diabetic toe amputation (or the limb in general) in the future. Let’s have a closer look at them:

  • Diabetic neuropathy is basically nerve damage. Regular high blood sugar levels have the ability to damage blood vessels in the body, especially the ones in the legs and feet. The trickiest part of this issue is that there are no painful sensations when the nerves are damaged. You can walk around in your shoes the whole day without even knowing ulcers or infections are developing; any cuts, sharp objects, or hot or cold surfaces can be felt. Because of that, a serious infection or gangrene may develop, which almost always leads to the body tissues’ death. And the only way a doctor can cure this issue is by amputating (or cutting off) the infected area;
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD). This issue leads to arteries narrowing, so the blood circulation doesn’t get to the legs quite well. As a result, people are more likely to get sores and ulcers that may let harmful infections into the body. Not to mention that bad circulation significantly slows down the ability to heal, which is also a reason for diabetic foot ulcer development.

More Factors That Increase the Chances of Amputation

Except for the conditions mentioned above, some other aspects may increase the possibility of limb amputation for diabetic patients. For example, the following issues shouldn’t be ignored:

  • A family history of foot amputation caused by diabetes mellitus;
  • The history of diabetes in one’s family;
  • Foot ulcers, fractures, or slow-healing wounds;
  • Any type of toenail infection (such as toenail fungus);
  • Bunions, corns, or thick calluses on feet.

It is crucial to pay close attention to one’s foot condition and contact a medical professional as soon as any mentioned-above symptoms are mentioned. It will not only increase the quality of life and preserve health but also prevent such unfortunate procedures as limb amputation.

It is very important to understand the relationship between diabetes, insulin and potassium. Our article what Is the Relationship Between Diabetes, Insulin, and Potassium will help you understand this. Go and learn the important information first.

Prevent Diabetes Foot Amputation

Now that you have a better understanding of why do people with diabetes lose limbs, let’s have a closer look at some prevention methods. Those with diabetes should be extra careful and take good care of their feet in order to avoid conditions that may lead to amputation. Overall, it is recommended to make health the main priority and constantly be in touch with a doctor in case something unusual occurs. Diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure – whatever it is, try to take it under control.

Some pieces of advice should be taken into consideration because, by following them, it is possible to seek medical help on time and prevent various severe health conditions; without further ado, let’s have a closer look at those:

  • Check the feet daily. People with diabetes should examine their feet at least once a day for sores, redness, blisters, and other wounds that may potentially lead to diabetic foot infections. If no one is there to help, it is always possible to use a mirror to see the bottom of one’s feet;
  • Don’t forget to wash your feet. Do it at least once a day. Use lukewarm water, massage gently, and then dry with a soft towel (especially between the toes). You can also use a pumice stone to rub feet in areas where calluses usually form carefully;
  • Don’t go barefoot, wear clean, dry socks, and buy comfortable shoes of the correct size. In this way, you will not only avoid hurting the feet but will also prevent irritations in sensitive regions. We recommend choosing cotton or acrylic fibers – not nylon;
  • Cut toenails carefully and don’t hurt already present calluses. Because of the reduced blood flow, wounds and cuts may need a longer time to heal. That’s why it is important to try and prevent these incidents at all costs;
  • Stop smoking. Smoking is a harmful habit that makes blood circulation more complicated than it already is, not to mention that it reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood. In this way, wounds get worse faster and heal much longer.

Warning Signs You Should Pay Attention to

In order o prevent a lower limb amputation, a person should be extra careful and pay attention to the changes in their bodies. We highly recommend expecting feet every day and paying attention to the slightest changes, such as:

  • Blisters, cracks, cuts, sores;
  • White spots or, on the contrary, redness;
  • Skin discoloration and plantar warts (flesh-colored growths);
  • Ingrown toenails;
  • And others.

Temperature changes may also point out that some processes in the body don’t work properly; to check whether feet haven’t lost their sensitivity, a person may use a feather and try to run it gently along the foot. If they have trouble inspecting everything on their own, a family member, friend, or partner may help to make sure no working signs are missed.

Amputation Alternatives

Even if diabetic foot ulcers are bad and need immediate medical help, amputation is still not the only option a medical professional can offer (of course, we are talking about the cases when a person informed a doctor about the problem on time). Based on the situation, the following alternatives may be recommended:

  • Surgery to clean the wound and remove dead cells to save as much healthy tissue as possible;
  • Antibiotics (medications are administered in one’s body via a tube (an IV) through veins);
  • Toe (or toes) amputation (still better than a foot or leg amputation);
  • Revascularization (a surgery that can bring new blood flow to a patient’s foot).

What If Amputation Is the Only Option?

Of course, a medical specialist’s main priority is to preserve their customers’ health and find the most beneficial solution to their problems. That’s why, even though foot amputation may seem cruel, sometimes it’s the only option left. Yes, sometimes it’s enough to remove dead tissue and check the area every 1-4 weeks, but it is essential to be ready for another scenario.

After surgery, it is required to stay in the hospital for a few days to see how the recovery process is going; usually, 4-6 weeks are enough for everything to heal completely. Moreover, after this procedure, it is crucial to follow a diabetes treatment plan because those who had one amputation are more likely to need another one in the future. It is better to maintain a healthy diet, exercise more, quit smoking, and keep up with a previously developed blood sugar control scheme to avoid it. Sometimes, it is recommended to have an appointment with these specialists: an endocrinologist, physical therapist, mental health expert, occupational therapist, and social worker.

Questions You Should Ask Your Doctor

In case limb amputations is the only option left, it is crucial to discuss the procedure with a doctor and highlight all the details that may worry a patient or make their anxiety too bad. We recommend writing them down in order not to forget anything important; here are a few of the most common questions:

  • How long is it needed to stay in the hospital?
  • Will there be a need to have an artificial limb? If not, why?
  • What are some recommendations that can help avoid another amputation in the future?
  • What can I do to prepare for this procedure mentally?
  • When will it be possible to go back to a usual routine?
  • How much will this operation cost?

Procedure Protocol

To not be too anxious about lower extremity amputation, it is crucial to be aware of the details of this process. In this way, it will be easier to plan the routine and aftercare plan, as well as discuss it with people who will take care of a patient after the operation. Let’s have a closer look.

In the Hospital

After the surgery is finished, a patient is sent to a recovery room. There, a nurse should monitor one’s blood pressure, pulse, and breathing. If all numbers are satisfactory, a person is sent to the hospital room; according to the protocol, the following things can be expected there:

  • Regular check-ups of one’s well-being;
  • Wound dressing change and medications prescription;
  • An appropriate type of physical therapy (like special exercises or gentle stretching);
  • Information about a prosthetic or artificial foot (if required).

After surgery, approximately two weeks should be spent in the hospital. During this period, a medical team should take care of a person’s blood sugar levels and check the treated area for signs of infections.

First Days at Home

Sometimes, a patient can be sent home after a few days in the hospital; it’s a good sign, and it means that the area is healing correctly and there’s no need to be absorbed by specialists. At this stage, it is essential to follow all doctor’s recommendations regarding bathing, physical therapy, certain activities, and caring about the wound. If there is any painful sensation, it is crucial only to take medications recommended by a professional, so don’t try to use whatever is present in your medicine cabinet (for example, aspirin can raise the chances of bleeding and slow down the recovery process).

Note: It is crucial to contact a doctor if any adverse reactions occur. Redness, bleeding, swelling, numbness, or constant painful sensation in the treated region can be a sign of post-surgery complications, so getting in touch with a specialist is vital. 

Possible Complications After the Procedure

Like any other surgery, limb amputation can be followed by some risks, like blood clots or infections. Sometimes, patients experience the following problems:

  • Nerve pain;
  • Phantom foot pain (when a person feels painful sensations in the area where the foot no longer exist);
  • Bone spurs at the end of the leg.

Sometimes, minor surgery may be needed to deal with these issues; however, massage, acupuncture, and other procedures may be enough for some individuals. All the decisions should be discussed with medical professionals during the appointment, so keep that in mind as well.

Amputation And Mental Health

Rehab is a natural process for such a complicated and stressful operation as leg or foot amputation; that’s why rehabilitation is needed for one’s physical health improvement and mental health rehab. After this procedure, it is common for patients to experience such things as grief, depression, anxiety, denial, and even suicidal feelings. If so, talking to a care team about how you feel after the operation is vital. They can assign you to special support groups, psychiatrists, or even medications if there is a need for them.

The Final Word: About Leg Amputation And Diabetes Mellitus

Leg amputation caused by diabetes mellitus is a problem often caused by this health condition. If taken care of properly, this issue can be avoided, but it is important to follow all doctor’s recommendations and safety rules mentioned in this article. Sometimes, it can be enough just to remove dead tissue or a toe; in this way, a person may continue living a full life without losing a limb. We hope you found all the crucial details in this article. Thank you for visiting our blog!

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