In 2010, about 73,000 non-traumatic lower-limb amputations were performed on adults aged 20 years or older with diagnosed diabetes. In addition, about 60% of all non-traumatic lower-limb amputations among people aged 20 years or older occur in people diagnosed with diabetes.
Experts say that, with good healthcare and support, four out of five amputations could be prevented. Eighty percent of amputations begin as foot ulcers, which are largely avoidable and far more treatable if found early. It is particularly important that if anyone with diabetes has a foot infection or new ulcer, they get urgent attention from a team of specialists. Evidence shows that the longer the delay before seeing a specialist, the more likely it is that foot ulcers will be severe and slow to heal, leading to a greater risk of amputation.
Most amputations can be prevented by maintaining proper foot care in people with diabetes. Inadequate foot care is the main cause of foot ulcers in diabetics, which can ultimately lead to amputation when injuries are ignored.
Diabetics can minimize and prevent further foot problems with the following three tips:
- Choose the right footwear
As a diabetic, avoiding tight fitting shoes is a must. This is one of the most common causes of diabetic foot problems. Instead, always wear shoes that are comfortable, have good cushioning/support, and enough space for your toes. Here at Anodyne, that is what we specialize in. You can learn more about what we offer in our shoes here. In addition, custom inserts can be used to isolate and individually treat any particular irregularity that a patient’s feet may have. The right pair of inserts will also help to relieve pressure from certain areas where a diabetic might have an existing ulcer, or be prone to developing one. You can find out more about our lab and the custom diabetic inserts here.
- Keep your feet clean
Proper foot hygiene is another smart way to prevent diabetic foot problems. Carefully wash your feet daily with mild soap and water and then dry them with a towel. Before your feet dry completely, apply a moisturizer to help maintain good skin health. This is important because using a lotion can re-hydrate and help prevent dryness of the feet. Excessively dry feet can lead to cracking and eventually to foot ulcers if bacteria get into those cracks. For those that live in a less humid environment, wearing socks immediately after washing your feet is recommended. This is another way to prevent the skin from cracking due to dry weather.
- Check your feet daily
Some diabetics have more severe symptoms than others. One of the biggest problems is diabetic neuropathy, or damaged nerves. This condition impairs the sense of touch, especially to the feet and legs. That is why many people with diabetic neuropathy may be unaware of cuts, abrasions, or other injuries to their feet. Neglecting even small wounds on the feet can often lead to more serious issues such as infections and ulcers. For people that are unable to see some areas of their feet, use a mirror or ask someone else to check them. It is also advisable to visit a doctor regularly for foot examinations, just in case there are some important warning signs you might have missed. For diabetics, checking your feet and legs every day for cuts, cracks, blisters, and other early signs of injury is crucial.
Wearing the proper footwear, keeping your feet clean, and checking your feet regularly are important steps to maintaining healthy feet. By following the proper foot care, diabetics can prevent many types of foot injuries that could lead to more serious conditions and amputations. Remember, if you're in doubt of something, have it checked out by a podiatrist right away. Don't wait until it gets too far. A podiatrist’s main concern is always to keep you walking and active.