Avoiding Amputations if You Have Diabetes
Most people take footcare for granted. To the diabetic however, caring for the feet is a very serious matter with unfortunate consequences if neglected. Why is this so? In diabetics, prolonged exposure to high blood sugar damages nerve cells and causes tingling, impaired sensitivity, numbness or pain. Most often this affects the nerves to the feet as they are the longest in the body. Loss of sensation in the feet means that sores or injuries may go unnoticed and become ulcerated or infected. They can become difficult to heal, with the problem made worse by the poorer circulation in diabetics. Eventually, amputation of the toe, foot or even lower leg may be necessary if treatment is no longer possible.
Diabetics are at high risk of getting nerve damage (neuropathy) and account for 30% of all cases, with about 60% to 70% having some form of it. According to the World Health Organisation, diabetic neuropathy is the most common complication of diabetes1. It is the greatest source of morbidity and mortality amongst diabetics and has been implicated in 50% to 75% of non-traumatic amputations2.
Over half of all non-traumatic lower limb amputations performed every year in the US are due to diabetes. However, comprehensive foot care programmes can reduce amputation rates by 45 to 85 percent3.
Foot care tips
Keeping blood sugar in control is just the first step in avoiding amputations caused by diabetic neuropathy. Proper foot care is also necessary to prevent or reduce the risk of amputations. Good foot care involves the following:
- Inspect your feet daily to check for cuts, sores, blisters, cracks, redness, swelling or other problems. Use a mirror or get help from someone else if you cannot see the bottoms of your feet.
- Wash your feet daily with warm water and a mild soap. Dry them with a soft towel and dry carefully between your toes.
- Moisturize your feet with lotion, but avoid getting lotion between your toes.
- Cutting your toenails regularly.
- Avoid walking barefoot to prevent injuries on the feet.
- Wear shoes that fit well. Break in new shoes gradually by first wearing them for only an hour at a time.
- Before putting your shoes on, look them over carefully and feel the insides of with hand to make sure there is no objects inside that might hurt your feet.
- Attend to foot injuries promptly.
- Have regular foot exams with a doctor who will be able to identify problems sooner than you.
- Quit smoking because it increases the risk of foot problems
To avoid amputations, it is not only important to keep blood sugar in check and practice proper foot care, but also to control nerve damage that can cause it to happen.
Treating or slowing down neuropathy
Neuropathy can be treated or slowed down by providing nerve cells with the nutrients that they need to function properly, especially vitamins B1, B6 and B12. These three vitamins are absolutely essential for healthy nerves. The supply is normally not a problem in a healthy person. In diabetics however, there is often deficiency in these vitamins. The longer a person has diabetes, the worse this is and the more severe the nerve damage becomes.
Diabetics are often deficient in vitamin B1. This is because vitamin B1 is necessary for carbohydrate metabolism. Reduced levels of vitamin B1 can lead to nerve damage. Deficiency of vitamin B6 is common if a person already has diabetic neuropathy. It is necessary for proper conduction of nerve impulses and helps to relieve pain. Diabetics are often also deficient in vitamin B12, which helps protect nerves and is important for overall nerve health.
Diabetics therefore need to ensure they get sufficient amounts of these vitamins in their diet or via a health supplement. Health supplement with a combination of vitamins B1, B6 and B12 is clinically used to nourish your nerve cells, help improve nerve function and relieve nerve pain. It can help you to slow down and even prevent damage to your nerve cells caused by high blood sugar. Consume sufficient of vitamin B1, B6 and B12 can help you avoid the consequences of diabetic neuropathy. Not only can it help you to avoid amputations due to nerve damage but also enjoy a better quality of life.
This article is brought to you by Merck Consumer Health. Merck is one of the leading companies for innovative and top-quality high-tech products in the pharmaceutical and chemical sectors.
- Diabetes Mellitus Fact sheet No.138.
- Vinik AI, Park TS, Stansberry KB et al. Diabetic neuropathies. Diabetologia. 2000;43:957-73.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diabetic Neuropathies: The Nerve Damage of Diabetes.