A hundred people a week in the UK have a lower limb amputated as a result of diabetes, warns Diabetes UK today. The leading health charity says to reduce this figure there is an urgent need for greater awareness of the impact of the condition, which as well as lower limb amputation can lead to other devastating complications such as heart attacks, strokes, blindness and kidney failure.
At risk of amputation
Amputation is a complication of diabetes caused by damage to the nerves and blood vessels that serve the limbs. Alarmingly, up to 70 per cent of people die within five years of having an amputation as a result of diabetes. Currently more than half of the general public do not associate diabetes with amputations and worryingly one in three people with diabetes do not realise that having the condition puts them more at risk of having an amputation.
Awareness and prevention
"This situation is shocking given that most amputations can be prevented with better awareness and management of the condition. People with diabetes need to have optimum support, guidance and clinical care to help minimise the risks of amputation," said Douglas Smallwood, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK.
"We want to see all people with diabetes have better access to podiatrists and to a regular foot check as part of their annual medical review. People with diabetes who are assessed as being at risk of foot problems need to have access to high quality integrated specialist foot care services to save the foot and reduce the likelihood of amputation.
“There are 2.3 million people already diagnosed with diabetes in the UK and over 500,000 people who have the condition but are not aware of it. All of the complications of diabetes can be life-shattering and as the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK keeps increasing, we need to make sure that people realise how serious the condition is.”
In the UK, 5,000 people with diabetes have an amputation every year. Diabetes is the second most common cause of lower limb amputation in the UK after trauma. People with diabetes are 15 times more at risk of lower limb amputation than people without the condition.
People at high risk of amputation are those who have a previous history of ulcers, neuropathy or nerve damage, circulation problems, foot deformities and those who cannot self care. Foot ulcers can be treated successfully, especially in the early stages. If they are left untreated though, the risks of infection are high and in extreme cases this could lead to gangrene and even amputation. More than ten per cent of foot ulcers result in amputation.
Diabetes UK is working with the Foot in Diabetes UK Group and the Joint British Diabetes Societies Inpatient Care Working Group to produce guidance for the proper management of acute onset, or deteriorating, disease of the diabetic foot. These will be available later in the year.