We often associate losing a limb with soldiers injured during battle. Unfortunately, there are many other reasons for a foot amputation: traffic accidents, a crush injury, bone tumors, even severe infections. What you may not know is that advanced diabetic complications may also result in the loss of a foot or leg. To understand why, you need to understand this complex disease.
The Complications of Diabetes
Diabetes involves the inability of your body to handle sugar and carbohydrates properly. With Type 1, damaged cells in your pancreas means it produces very little of the hormone insulin, which enables cells to burn sugar for energy. The sugar builds up in the blood to dangerously high levels. Insulin injections are the only way to correct this type. With Type 2, your body resists the action of the insulin and your body doesn’t produce enough extra to make up for the resistance. This type can often be treated with diet and exercise, with medication and insulin needed only when sugar level is not adequately controlled.
In either case, glucose levels that are high or fluctuate cause other problems: damage to the blood vessels, inadequate circulation, and nerve damage. These complications often present themselves first in the feet and legs. With poor circulation your cells don’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need to function properly and fight off infection. With nerve damage, you may not feel injuries to your feet or notice that an ulcer has developed. This combination of injury and poor circulation increases the chance that an infection cannot be controlled, and it might develop into gangrene, or dying of the tissue. At this point, amputation may be the only way to prevent the spread of infection that could cost a life.
When Foot Amputation is Inevitable
The need for amputation is a devastating diagnosis and a last resort. Remember that this procedure may relieve you of constant pain, and in some cases even save your life. Even in the most serious cases, the goal is to preserve as much of the tissue as possible while still ensuring full healing. The surgeon will remove all dead tissue and damaged bone, smooth the ends of the bone, seal off nerves and blood vessels, and cut and shape muscles so a prosthetic can be used. The wound may be closed immediately or left open in case further tissue needs to be removed. A dressing will be applied, and possibly a splint to keep the limb in place.
What Happens after the Amputation?
Depending on the extent of the surgery, your hospital stay will be from a few days to a couple of weeks. You will need time to heal from the surgery and to adjust to your new body. You may be fitted with prosthesis during that time. Fortunately, great advances have been made in the field of lightweight prosthetic devices that allow you to walk again. It may be helpful to talk with others who have experienced an amputation and learn from them. If phantom pain is an issue, medication can be prescribed, and counseling for grief over the loss of a limb. It will be an emotional time, and you will need support. Do not try to tough things out; ask for help if you need it. Once you have begun to heal, physical therapy will help you regain strength and range of motion so the transition to the prosthesis will go more smoothly.
A foot amputation is a serious situation. Most people work through it and go on to live normal lives. Call Aadvanced Foot Care Associates for expert diabetic foot care or more information about foot surgery. Reach us in Flushing, NY, at (718) 969-2266, in Plainview at (516) 822-9595, and in Rego Park at (718) 896-4433, or contact us online. We want to help you live life to the full!