Regular Foot Care Can Prevent Diabetic Amputation
January 1, 2019
By Dr. Jennifer Benge, Podiatrist
Eight percent of the U.S. population has diabetes, but nearly six million people are undiagnosed. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, some foot problems can help doctors discover diabetes. Diabetes can cause nerve damage in people’s feet, which can easily lead to amputation.
In the U.S., more than 60 percent of the patients who receive non-traumatic lower-limb amputations have diabetes. In 2004, almost 71,000 Americans with diabetes needed amputations. Luckily, most diabetic amputations can be prevented through vigilant foot care.
Diabetes can cause patients to lose sensation in their extremities. Therefore, a person with diabetes might not notice injuries to their feet until serious infection occurs. In most cases, patients can avoid amputation by working regularly with a podiatrist. Once diagnosed, patients with diabetes can prevent amputation by creating a foot care plan.
Plans should include annual checkups with a podiatrist and daily foot inspections. Those with the disease need to be especially careful about foot care and should work with a podiatrist to determine the best preventative treatments. Early diagnosis can help prevent severe nerve damage. For patients at risk for developing diabetes, some foot conditions can be an early warning sign.
Patients should see a podiatrist if they notice the following conditions:
- Calluses, blisters, or dry and cracked skin anywhere on the foot can imply poor circulation or foot health, especially if you don’t feel them or they take two or more weeks to heal.
- Look for thin, fragile, shiny or hairless skin, which can denote decreased circulation to the foot.
- Check shoes for torn linings or foreign objects. If they don’t irritate you when you walk, you might have nerve damage.
Other warning signs include foot deformities like hammertoes, a past history of foot ulcers, or lower leg or thigh pain when walking. A simple foot exam can reveal signs & symptoms of diabetes and identify more serious complications that could lead to lower-limb amputations. Screening and routine foot care are the first steps in preventing complications.