Did you know that people with diabetes are susceptible to nerve damage and circulation issues? For some diabetics, these issues may necessitate foot or lower limb amputation.
To put the severity of this problem into perspective, there are almost two million people living in the United States with limb loss. For 54% of those people, the cause of limb loss was diabetes and peripheral artery disease.
Peripheral artery disease – What exactly is it?
Peripheral artery disease refers to the build-up of plaque (a fatty sticky substance) on the inner surface of the arteries that lead to the legs. Its medical term is atherosclerosis but you may be more familiar with the term ‘hardening of the arteries.’
PAD (or poor circulation) is a particularly dangerous condition that causes the arteries to narrow restricting the flow of blood to the legs, feet, and toes. As a result, the lower extremities fail to get sufficient oxygen and nutrients to help them stay healthy and so they start to deteriorate. Leg pain, wounds, and diabetic sores that fail to heal, and loss of mobility are all common symptoms of PAD.
When PAD reaches an advanced stage it’s referred to as critical limb ischemia. This is where areas of the feet have lost their blood supply because of blockages and obstruction in the arteries that can result in gangrene or tissue death.
Gangrene can lead to amputation, so patients experiencing symptoms of PAD must seek immediate medical treatment.
Another symptom of peripheral artery disease that can lead to amputation is lower extremity diabetic ulcers or sores that fail to heal. Because there is insufficient blood flow to the lower extremities, chronic wounds on the legs and feet are unable to heal themselves.
Untreated diabetic ulcers and wounds on the legs of people with PAD can quickly escalate to an extremely serious problem for which sadly, the only course of action may be amputation.
Understanding the connection between diabetes and amputation
Amputation because of diabetes is more common than many people realize. which beggars the question “why is it that diabetics lose limbs?”
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), lower limb amputations are 10 times more likely in people who have diabetes than in people who do not have diabetes.
With almost 60% of amputations caused by common complications of diabetes and peripheral disease, it’s vital to address the connection between the two so that patients can seek help and save their limbs before it’s too late.
A major problem for people with diabetes is peripheral neuropathy which is essentially a loss of feeling or sensation in the feet and legs. When this occurs, they’re less likely to notice mild leg or foot ulcers before they become more severe.
In other words, many diabetics require amputation because they simply can’t feel the open diabetic sores on their feet and legs until they are at a higher risk of amputation and approaching a point of no return.
However, with more effective foot care and patient strategies implemented, there’s absolutely no reason why many of these high-risk patients can’t be healed.
Reasons to prevent amputation
- Most-cost effective solution for patients (lower-limb amputations in diabetic patients comes with financial yearly costs of between $30,000 and $60,000
- Almost half the individuals who have an amputation because of vascular disease pass away within 5 years
- Up to 55% of patients with diabetes risk losing their second leg to amputation often within 2-3 years
- Having both legs amputated will have a negative impact on their life
- Lower limb amputation is associated with the loss of independence, depression, and a shortened lifespan
So, what’s the solution?
Fortunately, there is an alternative to amputation and that is attempting to restore healthy blood flow. Taking preventative measures for amputation prevention and limb loss is critical if you don’t want to become another statistic. Failing to seek medical advice or delaying treatment will only cause gangrene and/or poor circulation to get worse.
If you have diabetes and you’ve been diagnosed with peripheral artery disease, provided it’s caught in its early stages it may only take a few lifestyle changes to improve your blood flow.
Even if the disease has reached an advanced stage, you may only need a minimally invasive procedure to remove the obstruction or blockage to restore your circulation.
Take action now
Come and talk to the experienced team at the Midwest Institute for Non-Therapy (MINT) about undergoing a Lumivascular atherectomy. This procedure utilizes real-time imaging to guide a catheter through your artery to the location of the blockage and only requires a small pin-hole incision.
Once the catheter has reached the blockage treatment involves:
- Balloon angioplasty – a balloon is inflated to flatten the plaque against the arterial wall to restore circulation
- The most advanced atherectomy devices are used to grind or cut away the plaque
- Stenting – in some cases, a small mesh tube (stent) is placed inside the artery after removing the plaque. This helps keep the artery open.
Ask about Amputation Prevention
If you have diabetes then don’t take your limbs for granted. Amputation prevention is about taking early and aggressive steps to heal and preserve your lower legs, feet, and toes. The program commences with vascular screening to assess your risk and diagnose PAD in its earliest stage.
At MINT, Dr. Goke Akiinwande is a specialist in opening arteries and veins and proud to operate a dedicated amputation prevention center. To schedule a FREE vascular screening call one of our offices in Creve Coeur, Farmington, or St. Louis, Missouri, or use online booking today.