Lower Limb Amputation

Amputation is an Avoidable Diabetes Complication 

Surgeries to remove a toe, foot, or leg fall within the category of lower-limb amputations (LLA). LLAs are increasing in the United States, with 80 percent of these procedures resulting from diabetes complications. At Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists in central Texas, we help our patients with diabetes prevent amputations by maintaining their long-term wellness.

Why Diabetics Face Higher Amputation Risk

Chronically high blood sugar creates a wide range of problems for those with diabetes, including two issues that specifically impact lower limbs.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

This condition causes the narrowing of blood vessels in the legs and feet, which reduces blood flow and causes foot wounds to heal more slowly, if they heal at all. 

Peripheral Nerve Damage

Diabetic neuropathy, also known as peripheral nerve damage, can lead to lost sensation in the lower extremities, resulting from damaged nerves. This can mean that patients don’t notice intense heat or cold and injuries to their feet, including cuts, scrapes, and puncture wounds.

When a patient has one or both of these issues, the complications can quickly become serious and even life-threatening:

  • Lack of coordination and issues with mobility
  • Blood pressure problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Infections, which may then spread to other parts of the body
  • Risk for sepsis
  • Necessary amputations to save the patient’s life

Amputation Prevention Strategies

If you have diabetes, there are steps you can take to reduce the chances that you will need an amputation.

Manage Your Blood Sugar 

High blood sugar promotes bacteria growth, allowing infections to progress more rapidly in diabetics than in other people. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and consistently engaging in moderate exercise are the best ways to keep your blood glucose levels within the recommended range and reduce your risk of developing PAD or nerve damage. 

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Eating healthy and exercising will also make it easier to avoid obesity, which can place extra stress on your feet. Diabetics should eat a diet of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables. Sugary drinks and empty calories should be avoided.

Avoid Dangerous Substances

Nicotine, alcohol, and narcotics can all adversely impact diabetes by decreasing blood flow, placing extra stress on the heart and lungs, and generally making you less healthy.

Get Foot Massages

Not only can a foot massage provide relief from discomfort, but it can also help stimulate nerves and increase circulation. 

Check Your Feet

If you have diabetes, you should thoroughly inspect your feet every day for blisters, cuts, calluses, or any other injuries that are not healing. If there is part of your foot that you cannot see, use a mirror or have someone else take a look. If you notice any of the following, contact Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists right away for an appointment:

  • Change in how your foot is shaped
  • Severe dryness or cracking to the skin of your feet
  • Skin on your feet has changed color or temperature
  • Your toenails seem thick or yellow
  • There are injuries to your feet that don’t seem to be healing
  • You notice signs of athlete’s foot or other infections

Prioritizing Skin Care

The skin on your feet needs to be thoroughly washed and dried every day, with special attention paid to the spaces between the toes. Avoid soaking feet in hot water, which can dry out the skin. You should also apply lotion every day to keep skin soft and prevent cracking. Cracked skin can allow germs to enter the foot and lead to infections. 

Protect Your Feet

Diabetics should not wear flip-flops or sandals or walk around barefoot, even when they are at home. They should also be mindful of extreme temperatures, as they may not feel if their feet are burning or becoming frost-bitten. Shoes specially made for diabetics are created with fewer seams inside, roomy toe boxes, and added padding, reducing the risk of shoe-related issues. Socks should be clean and dry, without tears or elastic bands at the top, made from an absorbent cotton material that will wick away moisture.

Change Positions

Spending too much time kneeling or crossing your legs can cut off circulation, further exacerbating existing issues with blood flow. By shifting your position regularly, you can keep your blow moving as much as possible.

Follow Best Practices for Nail Care

Always cut toenails straight across instead of an arched shape. Do not cut nails too short or allow them to grow too long, as any of these mistakes can increase the risk of ingrown toenails.

How We Help Our Patients With Diabetes Maintain Foot Health

Our central Texas podiatrists are skilled in managing diabetic foot conditions. In addition to patient education, we can offer:

  • Rapid diagnosis and treatment of foot conditions related to diabetes
  • Debridement
  • Custom orthotics
  • Amniotic treatments and grafts
  • Individualized care plans
Craig Thomajan
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Austin Podiatrist