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October 27th 2021

How common is diabetes-related amputation?

How common is diabetes-related amputation?

If you have diabetes, the risk of possible amputation can be daunting. However, knowledge of the key warning signs can prevent your injury escalating to the point of amputation.

If you have diabetes, the risk of possible amputation can be daunting. However, knowledge of the key warning signs can prevent your injury escalating to the point of amputation.

Diabetes UK states that “diabetes leads to 169 amputations a week”. Although this is a high figure, many diabetics can prevent a wound leading to an amputation through knowing the signs to look for and attending foot checks.

How is diabetes related to the risk of amputation?

As sufferers of diabetes produce excess blood sugar, the blood vessels throughout the body can become damaged. These damaged blood vessels then impact the flow of blood around the body and cause nerve damage to the limbs.

Nerve damage can lead to amputation as diabetics may be unable to feel a wound and therefore not treat it, allowing it to escalate to the point of needing an amputation procedure.

What are the amputation warning signs for people with diabetes?

The following symptoms do not confirm that you need an amputation, but rather that you should seek medical advice if you see any of these changes in your feet:

  • Numbness: You may feel pins and needles or a tingling sensation in your feet or legs.
  • Swelling: Your feet and legs may swell.
  • Wounds that do not heal: You may have blisters or wounds on your feet or legs that have not healed after a significant period of time.
  • Difference in leg hair and skin texture: You may notice you have no hair growing on your legs as well as very shiny skin on the feet.
  • Aches and pains: You may be suffering from a persistent dull ache and leg cramps when resting or active.

 Why are diabetics at greater risk of amputation?

As reported by Diabetes UK, diabetics are “20 times more likely to experience an amputation than someone without the condition”. Although this is a high figure, many diabetic amputations are avoidable if a wound is treated and monitored correctly.

Diabetics are at greater risk of amputation due to several conditions that can be caused by diabetes.

However, peripheral neuropathy, otherwise known as nerve damage to the peripheral nervous system, is the main condition that can lead to an amputation if not monitored carefully. This condition predominantly affects the feet and legs of those with diabetes.

Those with diabetes can also develop peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Symptoms of PAD can vary, with some people having no symptoms.

However, the disease most commonly causes pain in the legs when walking that settles after rest. This pain may be in one or both legs and if left untreated can develop into gangrene where an amputation would be needed.

What are the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy?

The general symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, although it is important to note that these may come and go or remain persistent, include:

  • Pain in the feet or legs: You may experience a tingling sensation or shooting pain.
  • Numbness: There may be a numbing sensation in the feet or legs, this may coincide with muscle weakness.
  • Balance: You may feel like you have a loss of balance and coordination.

How can peripheral neuropathy be treated?

Peripheral neuropathy can be treated using varying methods, which may include:

  • Lifestyle changes: Quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy diet can help to better manage your diabetes.
  • Medication: Some medications can cause peripheral neuropathy, it is important these risks are discussed with a medical professional.
  • Vitamin deficiencies: Most commonly, those with vitamin B12 deficiency can develop peripheral neuropathy, therefore, vitamin supplements may be prescribed.

However, there are cases in which peripheral neuropathy cannot be treated and is then managed with pain relief.

Can I prevent a diabetic amputation?

There are steps you can take to ensure you are in the best of health and reduce your chances of having an amputation procedure:

  • Foot care: As the most common amputations for diabetics are that of the feet, it is essential that you take care of them. Checking your feet daily for injuries such as blisters and wearing appropriate footwear are the basic steps to ensuring foot health. If you do believe you have a foot injury, be sure to seek advice from a foot specialist.
  • Quit smoking: Reduced blood circulation is a known side effect of smoking. The risk of reduced blood circulation in combination with nerve damage could increase chances of developing foot problems.
  • Effectively manage your diabetes: Knowing how to manage your blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol is the first step to keeping foot issues at bay.
  • Take care when cutting your nails: Although cutting your nails may seem like a simple task you may accidentally injure yourself and no matter how minor the injury, it can develop into something more significant. Be sure to not cut your nails too short and seek the advice of a foot specialist should you need further guidance.

What type of diabetic amputation is the most common?

The most common amputation for a diabetic is a minor or major lower limb amputation.

Minor lower-limb amputations are classed as an amputation below the ankle, whereas major lower-limb amputations are classed as below or above the knee.

Due to the nerve damage caused by weakened blood vessels, injuries to the foot are likely to go unnoticed by a diabetic.

This means that a simple blister may turn into a foot ulcer which can infect the bone in the foot and develop up the leg leading to the need for amputation.

What conditions and complications of diabetes can lead to amputation compensation claims?

If you have had a diabetic amputation or suspect you may need to undergo the procedure, you may be looking to gather information as to whether you have been the victim of medical negligence.

We understand that the journey to rehabilitation after an amputation is long and difficult, even more so if you have suffered from negligent treatment.

There are several complications and conditions that stem from diabetes which, particularly if left undiagnosed or untreated, may result in harm that you may be able to receive compensation for.  They include:

  • Circulatory conditions: Many diabetics can develop conditions such as peripheral arterial disease (PAD) which causes numbing of the legs and feet due to poor blood circulation.
  • Major infections: Most commonly, diabetics have to undergo amputation due to major infections such as gangrene and sepsis.
  • Charcot foot: This condition causes the bones in the foot to collapse due to abnormal walking. This may be due to peripheral neuropathy in which a diabetic will not realise they are walking abnormally as they have limited sensation of the limb.
  • Pressure sores:  Extra care should be taken by healthcare professionals when treating a patient with diabetes to avoid unnecessary injuries to the feet, which can range from minor foot injuries such as cuts, scratches and blisters, to severe pressure sores: all of which can become infected and lead to a need for amputation in the worst cases.

If you believe you may have a claim, then get in touch today to speak to one of our expert medical negligence lawyers for free, no obligation advice. Start your claim here >>

Hudgell Solicitors is proud to be working with the Limbless Association and helped the charity launch its Support and Connect Hub initiative in Hull. We support the Limbless Association through an annual donation to assist with the day-to-day running of the charity as well as being a legal panel member.

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