If you have type 2 diabetes and amputation is always a looming worry in the back of your mind, we understand that can be debilitating. Actively managing type 2 diabetes by taking medications, adjusting your diet, and exercising regularly can be exhausting enough without adding in the constant worry of losing a limb.
Thankfully, a new study published in Diabetic Medicine states that researchers are studying how to better predict diabetic foot amputation before it happens.
Why Does Diabetes Cause Amputation?
People with type 2 diabetes are usually told by their doctor that effectively managing their diabetes can help prevent serious, life-threatening health issues like heart attacks, strokes, and amputation. Although it’s important to understand why diabetes causes amputation in the first place. Usually it’s a combination of a few certain factors that can cause amputation due to diabetes, they include:
- Onset of peripheral artery disease
- Slow or non-healing wounds/ulcers on the legs/feet/ankles
- Nerve damage caused by peripheral neuropathy
Unfortunately, people with type 2 diabetes have too much sugar and cholesterol in their blood which they typically manage with insulin usage as well as diet changes. This excess sugar and cholesterol has been known to actually change your blood’s chemistry, as well as cause blood vessels to narrow.
Plaque buildup, which is made up of cholesterol, fatty substances, cellular waste products, calcium, and fibrin, attaches to the walls of your arteries. This plaque buildup is known as peripheral artery disease (PAD). “Over time, your blood won’t be able to successfully flow because plaque accumulation will become too severe,” states Dr. Yan Katsnelson. If enough plaque builds up to narrow or block an artery for a prolonged period, it can cause permanent damage to organs and tissue, such as your lower extremities. At this time, gangrene can progress to unmanageable levels resulting in amputation.
Additionally, nerve damage known as peripheral neuropathy can cause people with type 2 diabetes to not feel or notice leg ulcers that can progress over time. If diabetic ulcers become too severe or infected, amputation may be the only solution.
Predicting Diabetic Foot Amputation with Risk Scores
If you’ve spoken to a doctor about vascular disease, you may know that there are quite a few risk factors that could put you at an increased risk for amputation, these include:
- Current or former smoker, as well as exposure to secondhand smoke
- Age, especially over 50
- Elevated cholesterol or blood pressure levels
- Diabetes, especially type 2
- Family history of vascular disease, stroke, or heart attack
- Slow or non-healing wounds on the legs, ankles, or feet
In this new study, doctors would be able to rank your individual risk score based on what they think puts you at the most risk. The research showed that patients who experienced negative outcomes regarding limb loss were older, tended to be male, or were previous smokers. Additional factors were people who have had cerebrovascular disease, unmanaged insulin use, elevated levels of glycated hemoglobin, or neuropathy. This shows that doctors should be connecting these issues to further predict limb loss in patients with diabetes and PAD.
Authors in this study states, “the study data indicated patients with T2D (type 2 diabetes) and peripheral artery disease were at greater risk for major adverse limb events at 3 years. Additional risk factors included prior foot ulcers or amputations, insulin use, and smoking” (Diabetic Medicine, 2021).
Even though doctors know what the common risk factors are for peripheral artery disease, diabetes and amputation, risk scores can be extremely valuable in identifying patients requiring more intensive care and closer follow‐up appointments to prevent amputation.
Treating Peripheral Artery Disease to Prevent Amputation
In light of this new study, doctors have an important role to play when diagnosing patients with type 2 diabetes and peripheral artery disease. Keeping a closer eye on patients who also smoke, are insulin-dependent, and have prior leg ulceration can help prevent more diabetic foot amputations. Additionally, patients can also use this information to be proactive about their health. If you have either diabetes and PAD, you should be actively managing your conditions and visiting the doctor as regular as possible advises Yan Katsnelson, M.D. Documenting symptoms like new leg wounds, can help decrease your risk of amputation due to diabetes or PAD.
One of the most proactive things you can do for your health is to get tested for peripheral artery disease and get treatment as soon as possible. At USA Vascular Centers, we make getting diagnosed and treated as easy as possible. We do this by offering our patients nonsurgical, outpatient PAD treatment which allows people to skip an expensive hospital stay, as well as having to go under general anesthesia. Our PAD treatments allow for a quicker recovery when compared to surgery. If you’re interested in learning more about nonsurgical PAD treatment, give us a call at 888.773.2193 or contact us conveniently online.
You don’t have to become a statistic of peripheral artery disease, diabetes, and amputation. Take the first step to a healthier, more active life today.
Dr. Yan Katsnelson is a philanthropist, business owner, and highly skilled cardiac surgeon. He is the Founder and CEO of USA Vascular Centers, which is part of USA Clinics Group, the parent company of USA Fibroid Centers, USA Vein Clinics, and USA Oncology Centers with more than 90 facilities nationwide. Dr. Yan has established himself as a strong advocate for accessibility and affordability of the most advanced medical care close to home, and his mission is to create a positive experience for each patient with compassionate, personalized, and expert care.