If you or a loved one has had a limb removed or is at risk of amputation due to diabetic neuropathy, you are not alone. Approximately 86,000 people in the United States undergo limb loss related to diabetes annually, the majority of which are lower-extremity amputations.
We designed this short guide to better help you understand diabetic leg and foot neuropathy. As well as how to manage the risk of amputation, and strategies to cope should you or your loved one lose a limb.
What Is Diabetic Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is a term for nerve damage that occurs as a result of high glucose levels. There are several types of diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic amputation is most commonly caused by peripheral neuropathy. This affects the feet, legs, and arms.
According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetic neuropathy affects approximately half of all people with diabetes. People who have lived with diabetes longer are at higher risk. Although in many cases the symptoms will be so mild that people don’t realize they have it.
When is Amputation Due to Diabetic Neuropathy Necessary?
Peripheral neuropathy reduces sensation in feet, which can lead to unnoticed injuries turning into ulcers or infections. Diabetes also reduces blood flow to the feet, which prevents injuries from healing properly. Without treatment, complications can cause tissue in the foot or leg to deteriorate. This results in all or part of a foot or the entire lower leg to be amputated.
Is Diabetic Neuropathy Reversible?
Unfortunately, nerve damage related to diabetic neuropathy is not reversible. However, If diabetic neuropathy is caught early, the symptoms can be managed. This stops nerve damage from getting worse and can prevent amputation.
Tips to Reduce The Impact of Diabetic Neuropathy and Prevent Amputation:
Manage Your Blood Sugar:
- Use a glucose meter to manage your blood sugar day-to-day
- Get a lab A1C test at least twice a year in consultation with a doctor
Smoking and high blood sugar both damage your blood vessels. This hardens your arteries, leading to lower oxygen in your blood and accelerated nerve damage. Quitting smoking will help reduce the risk of further nerve damage.
It is estimated that half of all diabetic amputations could have been prevented with proper foot care. Ideally, one would like to catch foot issues before they spiral out of control. A caregiver should assist with these tasks if the person with diabetes is unable to do it themselves.
Where Can I Find Support Services For Amputation Related to Neuropathy?
Losing a limb can be a traumatic experience for the amputee and their families. There are over 300 amputee and neuropathy support groups across the nation registered with The Amputee Coalition. These groups help amputees, their families, and caregivers with the tools to recover, readjust and live life fully with limb loss. They can also help you with tips during your rehabilitation including how to manage your prosthetic foot or leg.
The Amputee Coalition also has over 1000 trained Certified Peer Visitors. These are people who live with limb loss that can meet with you one-on-one. Many of our Peer Visitors have lost limbs due to diabetes. They are trained to offer relatable advice and support in this difficult time.
How Do I Manage My Rehabilitation After Losing a Limb to Diabetes?
Every other month we publish our free inMotion magazine. inMotion provides well-researched articles to those with limb loss or limb difference. We have posted two helpful articles from issues of the magazine online specifically to help those who have recently lost a limb to diabetes:
Contact The Amputee Coalition For More Resources
The Amputee Coalition was founded to ensure you do not go through this journey alone. For personalized support and resources related to diabetes and limb loss, contact one of our information specialists.