Preventing amputation with diabetes

Amputation is a very unpleasant risk of diabetes. So what can you do, as a diabetic, to avoid needing a toe, foot or leg amputation? Manage your blood sugar, adopt a healthy lifestyle and check your feet every day.

Please note: we are not doctors. Therefore, the content on our website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your physician with questions about diabetes and never ignore professional medical advice.

Diabetic foot

There are several factors that increase the risk of amputation in diabetes patients, but, in the end, almost all amputations are the result of a wound on your foot that refuses to heal properly and gets infected. The Belgian Diabetes League estimates that a quarter of all people with diabetes develop foot problems at some point. A foot with problems caused - directly or indirectly - by diabetes is also called a diabetic foot.

Causes of amputation in people with diabetes

Diabetes affects your skin. The skin on your foot, for example, can become very dry, causing the skin to crack. In addition, people with diabetes generally get more frequent and severe calluses than others. When left untreated, these calluses can swell up and rupture, leading to ulcers and infections. Even innocent little wounds can give rise to serious infections if they are not noticed in time and left untreated.

Diabetes can actually cause the blood vessels to your legs and feet to narrow. This negatively impacts blood flow, increasing the likelihood of sustaining wounds and extending how long they take to heal. Diabetes can also lead to nerve damage, which can cause tingling and pain and reduced foot sensitivity. As a result, you may not notice a wound on your foot until it becomes infected. Even issues as minor as a pebble in your shoe or a blister after a long walk can herald major severe problems for people with diabetes.

If the infection cannot be stopped or the damage is irreparable, amputation may be necessary. Patients with diabetes often need to have their toes, feet or lower legs amputated.

What can you do yourself to prevent amputation?

For starters, the fact that you are diagnosed with diabetes does not mean that you will have to have an amputation at some point. According to the Belgian Diabetes League, about half of all amputations in people with diabetes can be prevented with proper wound management. The best thing you can do yourself to prevent amputation and other serious risks of diabetes is to manage your blood sugar. But where do you start?

  • First of all, make sure to eat a healthy diet. Here are some tips from the Diabetes Fund .
  • Avoid soft drinks and fruit juices as much as possible because of the quick sugars.
  • Avoid stress, as stress hormones are likely to harm the body’s response to insulin.
  • Get at least thirty minutes of exercise a day. Here are some tips from the Diabetes Fund .
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure and weight, as insulin cannot do its job properly if you’re overweight.
  • Test your blood sugar levels regularly so you know when to act.
  • Take medication (such as insulin) as prescribed by your doctor.

Research has shown that good foot care makes a big difference in people with diabetes. In fact, a Swedish study shows that the number of amputations can be reduced by as much as half when diabetic patients receive proper foot care. Want to find out how to help prevent an amputation by practicing proper foot care? Check out our article: Diabetic foot: 10 foot care tips for diabetics.