Being aware of these conditions makes a difference. There are steps you can take to lower your risk of complications.
There are approximately 150,000 leg amputations every year in the U.S. that are not related to an accident. That number is staggering. However, awareness that it could happen to anyone, and being aware of the causes, can potentially save a limb.
Poor circulation plays a role in more than half of all surgical amputations. Conditions like diabetes and peripheral artery disease (PAD) affect blood flow to the legs and feet, putting people at a higher risk of losing a limb. “If you have both PAD and diabetes, your risk is even higher,” warned Dr. Diana Perry of Comprehensive Integrated Care (CIC) in Flagstaff.
A chronic wound also can lead to amputation. A wound can be anything from a scrape that never really heals to an open sore that doesn’t close or slowly gets bigger, but never better. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than six million people in the U.S. are affected by slow or non-healing wounds. “This high number worries me because if it’s not treated, a chronic wound can lead to an amputation or even death,” said Perry. “If you have an amputation because of a wound, your risk of dying within five years is higher than if you had some [form of] cancer.”
Being aware of these conditions makes a difference. There are steps you can take to lower your risk of complications. The first thing you can do is to notice how your legs feel. “PAD is often felt in the legs or feet first. Patients notice burning, tingling, cramping or wounds that won’t heal,” explained Dr. Joel Rainwater, M.D., endovascular specialist and chief medical officer of CIC. “The good news about PAD is that there’s hope. There is treatment and it’s excellent,” explained Rainwater. A minimally invasive procedure is done in an office setting and patients are home within hours and back to everyday activities with almost no downtime, no stitches and no overnight hospital stay. Medicare as well as most insurance plans will cover treatment.
If you are living with diabetes, you need to pay attention to your feet as well. “One of the most important things people with diabetes can do to lower their risk for amputation is to check their feet every day,” said Perry. “Sores, redness, swelling and any other changes to the way your feet look or feel should be reported to your doctor right away. Watching to see if something will go away on its own may let a small problem become a big problem in a hurry.”
It’s important to seek help at the first sign of any issue, there is nothing to be gained from waiting. And regular visits to a foot doctor help manage foot health and potentially reduce or prevent complications from occurring. Perry says, “When I work with a patient, I know that together, we can lower the risks of many of the problems diabetics face.”
Once identified, it’s important to start treatment. Because there are many different processes involved with limb preservation, the best opportunity for success is with a team approach. A primary care physician, podiatrist and wound care specialist all take part in controlling diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol and wound management. An endovascular specialist evaluates circulation and can do a procedure to help blood flow, a key component of healing a wound and saving a limb.
“It’s all about doing our best to help prevent a condition from leading to dangerous consequences,” said Perry. “There are treatments available that have the potential to save a limb.” Don’t let a lack of awareness put you at risk for loss of limb. FBN
By Reisha Zang
Dr. Diana Perry, DPM, specializes in limb preservation and trauma of the foot. She can be reached at CiC 928-719-7400.
Reisha Zang is director of communication at CiC. You may contact her at 928-719-7400 or [email protected]