According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 86,000 people undergo foot amputations yearly. But, you can reduce your likelihood if you understand the role neuropathy frequently plays in amputations.
How Neuropathy Causes Problems
The nerve damage and reduced sensations in your feet make it far easier for you to sustain injuries and get infections. Because you can’t notice any discomfort, ulcers, infections, and gangrene can develop easily, and poor circulation makes it harder for you to heal.
If the infection can’t be controlled or the wound won’t heal, amputation is a likely outcome to remove dead tissue. Of the roughly 15 percent of all diabetics who develop a foot ulcer, 24 percent will face amputation.
In some cases only toes or parts of the foot are removed to salvage as much healthy tissues as possible. But, if the infection has spread, doctors might have to remove the entire foot or leg. Amputations require several nights in the hospital and up to 8 weeks of recovery time. Prostheses, assistive devices, and home adaptations can help with rehabilitation.
Ways to Reduce Risk for Diabetic Amputation & Neuropathy
You can reduce your chances for developing an injury that ends in amputation. Following these suggestions can help keep your feet in tact:
- Don’t smoke. It constricts the blood vessels, decreasing circulation.
- Get routine foot check-ups. Examine your feet daily, using a mirror to see them if needed. Have a medical provider check them regularly, as well.
- Control your blood sugar. Keep your levels between 70-130 mg/dL before eating and under 180 mg/dL after meals.
- Eat healthy. Choose lean meats, fruits, vegetables, fiber, and whole grains. Avoid sugared juices and sodas.
- Get at least 30 minutes daily. Swimming and walking are good options.
- Practice good foot care. Wash and dry your feet thoroughly every day, putting cornstarch between your toes to minimize moisture. Keep your toenails trimmed short. Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to your feet to reduce cracking. And, wear well-fitting, closed-toe shoes and dry socks without elastic at all times.
- Don’t remove warts or callouses with scrapers or scissors. It can leave your feet open to infection.
- Keep moving. Wiggle your toes and twist your ankles several times a day.
When to Talk With Your Doctor
Even if you follow these tips, problems could still arise. See your doctor if you have any of these issues: fungal infections, splinters, ingrown toenails, corns, bunions, callouses, plantar warts, chilblains, hammertoes, dry skin, gout, and heal pain/spurs.
Although diabetic neuropathy greatly increases your likelihood for foot injury and possible amputation, following these steps can give you the greatest chance for avoiding this surgery.
Contact the Amputation Prevention Centers of America for more information on diabetic amputation and neuropathy.