Foot amputation is not only stressful to the body but can also have detrimental effects on the mind. Our minds more often than not think of our bodies as a whole, and losing any part of it can cause great stress and depression, not mentioning the additional issues, such as phantom pain and others. Naturally, humans tend to avoid losing their limbs at all costs, and if you are in the risk group there are some precautions you can take to avoid losing your foot.
Nowadays, most foot amputations are performed because of the effects of diabetes, and patients with severe stages can definitely do some things on their part to avoid losing their feet. Complications that diabetes brings along can include poor blood circulation and nerve damage, which can make the feet vulnerable to skin ulcers which can progress quite fast and be very difficult to treat.
However, good news is that by managing your diabetes properly and taking care of your feet will help with the prevention of foot ulcers. Another interesting fact is that foot amputation rates due to diabetes have gone down by over 50 percent in the last 20 years due to proper diabetes care. It is very important to know that if a foot ulcer develops, it is crucial to care for it promptly. An ulcer that does not heal can cause severe damage to the bones and tissue and therefore, result in the need for amputation. So, if you are interested in knowing what you can do to prevent the amputation of the foot, read on.
Prevention is Golden
The best thing you can possibly do is to simply prevent the complications brought about by diabetes. Proper diabetes management includes a healthy diet, exercise, and monitoring of blood sugar levels, as well as taking prescribed medication conscientiously.
Proper foot care is also essential. Here are some steps you can take:
- Washing your feet daily. You should wash your feet every day with lukewarm water, and always make sure to gently dry them, especially between your toes. You can use a pumice stone to gently exfoliate the skin to prevent calluses. To make sure your toes are dry, you can sprinkle some talcum powder or cornstarch between them, and always use a moisturizing cream to keep your skin soft and elastic.
- Daily inspection. Check your feet each day for cracks, blisters, sores, redness, cuts, swelling, or tenderness. If you can’t reach to your feet, place a hand mirror on the floor and inspect your feet or ask someone to do it for you. There are special thermometers that check the temperature of your feet which you can use to detect the early signs of troubles. The doctors agree that the foot will be hotter before the skin breaks down.
- Trim toenails with care. You should always trim your toenails straight across and file the sharp ends.
- Do not remove calluses on your own. Do not attempt to remove any skin lesions or calluses yourself to prevent injuries. No not use nail files or nail clippers, as well as scissors on corns, warts, calluses, or bunions. Do not apply chemical wart removers yourself and always consult your doctor on these issues.
- Do not go barefoot. Try not to go barefoot, even around the house, to prevent possible injuries.
- Wear proper shoes. You should always wear comfortable shoes that fit you properly and that provide support for your feet. Avoid tight fitting shoes and avoid high heels or narrow toe shoes. You may also wear orthopedic shoes that fit your foot perfectly and evenly distribute the weight on your feet.
- Always wear clean and dry socks. Wear socks made of fiber that pulls the sweat from your skin, such as acrylic fibers or cotton. Do not wear socks with tight elastic bands as they can prevent circulation
- Do not smoke. Smoking can cause circulation problems and it can actually lower the amount of oxygen in the blood, which can lead to poor wound healing.
- Regular checkups. Go to your doctor who will inspect your feet for the signs of nerve damage or poor circulation. Do this at least once a year, or more if recommended.
- Do not take foot injuries lightly. Always speak to your doctor if you have a sore that won’t go away or if you have other foot injuries.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, food with a lot of fiber and whole grains, and lean meats. Avoid sugary drinks and sodas.
- Monitor foot sensation. In order to keep track on the sensation of your feet, use a feather or a brush to test the ability of your foot to feel light touch. Also, test your feet in warm and cold water to make sure you can sense the differences between temperatures. This is important because keeping track of the sensation can avoid harsh injuries that you may fail to feel if your feet become numb.
Why is Diabetes Linked to Amputation?
It is widely known that nowadays, diabetes is the leading cause of foot amputation, but why is that so? Diabetic foot syndrome develops because of the large amounts of sugar in the body, which changes the peripheral nerves, skin, soft tissues, blood vessels, and joints and bones. Therefore, infections, suppurations, and ulcers thrive in these conditions. Over 15 percent of diabetic patients have the high risk of developing one of these skin issues, which, untreated, can lead to amputation.
Furthermore, people with diabetes will develop numbness in the feet because of the nerve damage (also known as diabetic neuropathy), which can make them not aware of the skin injuries on their feet. A healthy person with an injury on their foot will change the way they walk or put on their shoes to avoid putting the pressure on the sore spot, which makes the blister, or some other injury heal easier. However, a person with diabetic neuropathy will fail to do so, and they will continue walking like they used to, right on top of the blister or another injury. By doing this, the blister may burst and get infected, and finally turn into an ulcer. Subsequently, that ulcer can develop as deep as the bone and get infected and develop a gangrene, which leads to amputation.
Studies have shown that more than 24 percent of patients with foot ulcers will need an amputation, and the risks are even higher for black, Native American, or Hispanic patients.