Amputation & Diabetes: What you need to know
13th January, 2023
Article

The prospect of requiring an amputation due to diabetes can be frightening. Yet, educating yourself and understanding ithe warning signs, can help you take important steps to prevent your injury from progressing to the stage where amputation may be required.  

According to a report from the NHS Resolution in 2022, amputations linked to diabetes are on the rise; with 7957 major diabetic lower limb amputations recorded in England between 2017 and 2020. Although this figure is high, there are measures you can take to ensure an amputation is not required – such as understanding the signs and carrying out regular checks on your feet. 

Helen Vernon, Chief Executive Officer for NHS Resolution, has confirmed that 85% of the amputations are avoidable – which means that the proper care shown by healthcare professionals and those with diabetes, could go some way to preventing an amputation.  The report also highlighted delays in recognising the severity of diabetic foot disease, and subsequently delays in the care provided.  

The Link Between Amputation and Diabetes 

 

If you are diabetic, you are 15 times more likely to undergo an amputation compared to someone who does not have diabetes according to Diabetes.co.uk. It is understood that diabetes is one of the leading causes of lower limb amputations globally, and that foot problems are one of the most common reasons for hospitalisation among patients with diabetes. However, some of these hospitalisations can be prevented by undertaking foot care routines. 

In our clients’ experience, amputation has been linked to diabetic complications which can include nerve damage and poor circulation of blood. Therefore, diabetics who experience nerve damage, may not be able to feel the wounds, and in turn do not seek the required treatment which could prevent an amputation. 

 

Foot Ulcer risk factors 

Diabetes.co.uk say that the following could increase the prospect of developing a foot ulcer: 

  • Wearing poor fitting footwear 
  • Walking barefoot 

There is also evidence to suggest that smoking, no exercise, being overweight, high cholesterol and/or blood pressure can all increase the risk of a diabetes foot ulcer. 

 

What are the warning signs? 

The experience of our clients has enabled us to highlight the signs and symptoms  people with diabetes should look out for, to help prevent an avoidable amputation: 

  • Foot swelling 
  • Blisters or wounds 
  • Aches & pains 
  • Skin discolouration or different textures 
  • Ulcers (which have been there more than a week) 

Other warning signs have been outlined on Medical News Today which was last updated in September 2022. 

 

Peripheral Neuropathy 

As previously mentioned, nerve damage can come as a result of diabetes. Peripheral Neuropathy is damage to the peripheral nervous system. According to the NHS, this can be caused by Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as a result of high blood pressure damaging tiny blood vessels which supply the nerves.  

This is one of the main conditions that leads to diabetic amputation, if not treated correctly, and often affects your feet or legs. 

The NHS says that the symptoms can vary, as there are three different types of neuropathy. However, some of the more common symptoms are: 

  • Pins & needles 
  • Burning/sharp pain in your legs or feet 
  • Loss of balance 
  • Foot/shin pain or weakness 

 

Steps to Take to Prevent Diabetic Amputation 

To help ensure you are doing everything you can to prevent diabetic amputations, be sure to follow these simple steps as outlined by medical professionals: 

  • Look after your feet daily e.g checking for ulcers, sores, tenderness, swelling 
  • Wash your feet in lukewarm water 
  • Don’t remove foot lesions yourself 
  • Ensure you cut your toenails carefully 
  • Don’t walk around barefoot 
  • Make sure you wear clean, dry socks 
  • Make sure you purchase shoes that fit correctly 
  • Don’t smoke 
  • Attend regular foot check ups 

 

Diabetic Amputation Claims 

As medical negligence experts, we have experience in handling cases in relation to diabetes and amputation. An example of this is when an elderly man had his leg amputated after a series of medical errors. This occurred after he had suffered pain in the middle toe of his right foot in 2015 after which is became ulcerated and later progressively worse meaning he was referred to a high-risk foot clinic. 

As a diabetic, our client required his foot ulcers to be taken care of urgently and carefully, as diabetes can complicate the healing process. The pain in his toe continued to progress and sufficient medical support was not supplied. This eventually led to the devastating news that his right leg would need to be amputated. 

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