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Saturday, March 31, 2012

How common are diabetes-related amputations?

By Andre Bart

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of lower limb amputations throughout the world, with problems of the foot or calf being the most frequent reasons for hospitalisation. Diabetes has a number of complications associated with it including high blood pressure, high levels of sugar and very low insulin levels. All of these can cause nerve damage over a prolonged period of time. This nerve damage if left untreated is what leads to amputation.

Though the World Health Organization has concluded that, by 2030 diabetes sufferers would have doubled across the globe, the Centre for Disease Control suggests that amputations are rapidly decreasing among suffered. Between 1996 and 2008, the number of diabetes related amputations decreased by 65% from 11 to 4 in 1,000.

Amputations are more likely to occur in men, as opposed to women, and those over 75 are 3 times more likely to suffer amputations. Naturally, amputations come with their own complications; therefore the cycle associated with diabetes is a rather dramatic one. However, it is not all bad. According to the Centre for Disease Control, diabetes related amputations have declined by 65% over the past 10 years.

So why has this number declined so dramatically? Well, many believe it is due to increased information regarding diabetes and lifestyle changes that must be made. As was described above, amputations occur due to prolonged high blood pressure, high blood sugar and low insulin levels lead to incurable nerve damage. Therefore, by increasing awareness of these side effects, and how to control them in one's daily life, the CDC believe have led to this dramatic decrease.

So why do amputations occur? Well, as stated before, this is due to nerve damage. With nerves in the foot and leg damaged, feeling can be lost and cuts and scrapes can go unnoticed. Therefore, these can get infected quickly and be left untreated for a long period of time. Due to the poor circulation associated with diabetes, even once discovered, treatment can be difficult. The CDC warrants declining amputation rates to further information being provided about diabetes related amputations. This hopefully suggests that, over the next few years, though diabetes may rise, amputations will continue to fall.

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