Healthy, functioning limbs are often taken for granted. That is why the idea of having to lose a hand or foot to amputation is so frightening. However, being unaware of life-threatening health complications can be extremely dangerous and can lead to amputations that could have been avoided. As a result, those with diabetes must know everything they can about taking care of their health. Well Heeled takes a closer look at this complex topic.
Can diabetes cause amputations?
Although it is improbable that diabetes will lead to hand or arm amputations, there is an increased risk of the feet and legs. This is because diabetes affects the blood circulation in the body, which can have devastating effects on the lower legs and feet.
There are two health complications linked to diabetes that can result in amputations of the legs or feet. These are diabetic neuropathy and peripheral artery disease(PAR). Therefore, understanding these two conditions can be beneficial in knowing how to identify factors that might increase the odds for amputation.
What is diabetic neuropathy?
When someone struggles with diabetes, the blood circulation issues and high blood sugar levels can cause blood vessels and nerve damage in the legs and feet. This is called neuropathy. As a result, someone with diabetic neuropathy might not experience any sensation in their legs or feet. Although this might seem like an insignificant factor, it can be life-threatening.
If someone has severe diabetic neuropathy in the legs and feet, elements such as intense cold, heat, pain, and sharp objects might go unnoticed. These things may lead to ulcers, infections, or wounds that might require medical attention. However, if they aren’t noticed, they could become life-threatening.
If a person has been diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy, the following should always be done:
- Regular checks of the feet and legs for any signs of infection or injury
- Wear orthopedic shoes and socks
- Keep feet clean and nails neatly cut
- Massage lower legs and feet daily to boost blood circulation
If there are any signs of infection, open wounds, or ulcers, a podiatrist should be seen immediately.
What is peripheral artery disease(PAR)?
Peripheral artery disease can affect the veins that carry blood to the legs and feet. With narrowed veins, blood circulation can be insufficient. This can result in delayed healing in those areas. That is why it is equally important to do regular checks on the feet or legs if a diagnosis for PAR has been made. If any discomfort is experienced in the feet or legs, it is best to contact a doctor.
Are there any other factors that can increase the odds of amputation?
Although PAR and diabetic neuropathy can significantly increase the risk of amputation, other factors could cause amputation in those with diabetes. These include:
- Severe foot complications, including corns, bunions, and calluses
- Infections of the toenail that has become too severe to treat
- Wounds that aren’t healing
- Fractures of the foot
- Ulcers on the foot
- A family history of foot amputations because of diabetes-related complications
Are there ways to prevent amputation if you have diabetes?
Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the odds of amputation. As with all health complications, living a healthy, balanced life can make a big difference. Those with diabetes are advised to do the following to reduce the risk of amputation:
- Following a healthy diet
People with diabetes can benefit significantly from a well-balanced diet. It is best if processed foods rich in sugar and fat are reduced while the intake of lean meat, fruit, and vegetables is increased.
- Staying hydrated
People often make the mistake of thinking that all fluids count towards hydration. But, in fact, some drinks are more detrimental to health, especially for those with diabetes. Therefore, people with diabetes should cut back on soda and sugary drinks. Instead, eight glasses of water a day will be much better for overall health.
- Minimizing stress
These days stress is nearly unavoidable. However, stress can have a detrimental effect on the body. That is why destressing is vital for overall health. Although our schedules might not always provide a lot of time for destressing, practicing routines that can help with destressing can be very beneficial. Setting out a few minutes to do breathing exercises, for example, can be an effective way to reduce stress without losing too much valuable time.
- Daily exercise
Regular exercise is necessary for overall health. In fact, by exercising for 30 minutes a day, a person with diabetes can significantly improve blood sugar levels, boost blood circulation, and decrease the odds of amputation. In addition, the form of exercise doesn’t have to be very intense and tiring. Instead, half an hour of brisk walking can make a massive difference.
- Keeping an eye on blood pressure and body weight
Although we might prefer not to measure these two things too frequently, it is vital for those with diabetes. By achieving healthy blood pressure levels and normal body weight, someone with diabetes can greatly decrease the odds of suffering amputation.
- Regular blood sugar checks
Irregular blood sugar levels can be very detrimental to the health of someone with diabetes. That is why blood sugar checks must be done regularly. If it is challenging to do these checks regularly, consider setting alarms as reminders.
- Administering insulin as directed by a doctor
Those with diabetes who must use insulin should always use it on time. In addition, they should be sure that the correct dosage is administered. If insulin doses have been skipped, it is best to have a check-up with a doctor.
- Seeing your podiatrist regularly
Since diabetes can greatly affect foot health, routine visits to a podiatrist are recommended. This will give the podiatrist an excellent opportunity to assess the health of your feet and lower legs.
No one wants to think about losing any body part, so amputation is something we’d rather not think about. However, by keeping good foot care and overall health in mind, someone with diabetes can significantly reduce the odds of amputations. Good health is a commitment that is always worth it.
Disclaimer and Important Note from Well Heeled
The information contained in all our blog posts, messages and information on all platforms is not to be used as diagnosis material or as professional advice. We love writing our posts and information but you should always seek proper professional advice if you experience any negative health and well-being problems. We try to keep our information as accurate as possible but we do not intend to take the place of official, professional advice and information that you can find from your appropriate GP, medical services and other professional bodies that can give appropriate medical guidance and support.
Here are some great external links for you to seek that proper and appropriate foot, diabetes and health care guidance and support: