If you, or someone you love, has diabetes, it’s important to take proper care of your feet to prevent any possible problems. At Superior Ankle & Foot Care, we’re here to help put your mind at ease somewhat by giving you all the information we can about how to prevent this from happening to you.
What is it?
Diabetic limb amputation occurs when two of the symptoms of diabetes work together to destroy your body: loss of sensation and poor circulation. These two effects can lead to all sorts of damage to limbs, particularly the feet and lower legs, and that damage can cause the removal or amputation of that limb.
What causes it?
The damage to your feet and legs can occur through a number of ways. To understand this, we need to first talk about the most common form of limb damage suffered by diabetics, diabetic neuropathy. Knowledge of this condition is extremely important for diabetics including what it is, and how to treat it.
Diabetic neuropathy occurs when nerve endings are damaged or even destroyed by the effects of extended high blood sugar. Nerve fibers break down and this leads to a pronounced lack of sensation in the feet and legs. How does that lead to amputation?
Essentially, it makes it harder for you to notice damage like cuts and abrasions that occur to areas without sensation, particularly the most common areas which are the feet and lower legs. Lack of treatment and wound protection in these areas can quickly lead to an infection in even the most minor of injuries. This also makes things like shaving, nail care, and other personal grooming of the feet and legs much more of a hassle because even the smallest nick or scrape has to be addressed.
These issues are compounded by the fact that diabetics frequently suffer from poor circulation which, in addition to muscle atrophy and other issues, also makes it increasingly difficult for your body to fight off infection. Poor circulation means your body isn’t getting either the white blood cells it needs to fight infection, or the oxygen and other materials it needs to make repairs.
Taken together, these two effects of diabetes make the potential loss of a limb an increasing concern as time pases. Everyday is a struggle against nicks and scrapes and other potential threats to life and limb that most people can ignore, but what can be done about it?
Preventing Limb Amputation
First and foremost, vigilance in checking your feet and legs for damage is paramount. Many people with diabetes make a habit of checking their feet and lower legs at specific times, like whenever they brush their teeth, or right after they sit down for a meal. This makes it easier to regularly keep tabs on the areas you’re most likely to have those cuts and scrapes. It’s also a good time to look for signs of increased lack of sensitivity and poor blood circulation. Some things to look for and discuss with your doctor are:
- Coldness in the Extremities
- Numbness in the feet and hands
- Hair loss on feet, hands, arms, and legs
- A pale blue tint to skin in those with fairer complexions
- Increase in “pins and needles” sensations or other feelings of the feet and legs falling asleep
- Dry or flaky skin, especially on the feet
- Slow healing of wounds or sores (contact your Doctor immediately as this may be a sign of something even more serious)
- Brittle or Yellowing toenails
If you notice any of these signs and symptoms, talk to your doctor to make sure you are doing all you can to avoid issues that could lead to amputation.
Preventing Amputation with Superior Foot and Ankle Center
The most important thing you can do to help prevent a foot or leg amputation is to properly manage your diabetes with diet, exercise, and careful blood sugar monitoring. Beyond that, there are things we can do that help those in Long Beach specifically with this issue.
- Shoe fittings: We can help make sure you’re wearing comfortable, supportive shoes that will lessen the likelihood of injury.
- Nail Repair: We can help shape and sculpt damaged nails to prevent further damage that might cause a wound that would otherwise be prone to infection.
- Regular Foot Exams: Of course, regular foot exams are something everyone should get, but they are even more critical for those with diabetes. Your podiatrist may catch potentially serious issues before you notice them.
- Treat nail and toe fungus before it becomes a serious issue.
If you have diabetes, and would like to know more, or just want to talk about some of these issues and your options, give us a call at 562-430-9800. Our expert team of Doctors will be more than happy to do everything we can to keep an amputation from happening to you.