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Senior Citizen's Guide to Detroit

Saving Limbs

In the world of foot care, two options are usually given when treating severe diabetic wounds; one of these is loss of limbs. The number one reason people are losing limbs is unchecked diabetes that result in numbness and loss of circulation to the extremity. The two solutions are either limb salvage or below the knee amputation. Most doctors would rather amputate than try to save a patient’s foot although limb salvage has been growing in popularity in recent years.

Diabetes is a disease that affects the way our bodies process sugar. People with diabetes are fifteen times more likely to need amputations. Up to fifty percent of these people with below knee amputations die within five years.

There are two forms of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is characterized by insulin deficiency. The patient requires insulin shots daily and monitoring of blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes is characterized as adult onset, which requires oral and insulin medication as necessary. If this medical condition is not properly managed, it could result in heart attacks, strokes, amputation and kidney failure along with visual problems. Due to lack of sensation and circulation problems, a minor trauma such as blisters or bumping into a table could lead to a debilitating wound.  Nerve damages lessen the ability to feel pain, heat and positioning of feet. This loss of feeling leads to patients not noticing a wound till it swells and becomes malodorous.

Factors that can increase severity of the disease include obesity, hypertension, smoking and elevated cholesterol. Ulcers quickly identified and treated may heal quickly. The key to wound care is early detection. Prevention begins with daily foot inspection and regular visits to your podiatrist and Medical Doctor.

People with Diabetes should have a foot exam every year. Exams include: checking for sensation (feeling) in the feet, looking at the foot for changes in shape and size, checking blood flow and circulation and looking for discoloration. People would be amazed at how many diabetic patients go for months without checking their feet for problems. This usually has results that the patient could have easily avoided.

There is a reason that infected feet of diabetic patients are considered a medical emergency. If left untreated gangrene can result, requiring amputation of the foot. Infection, gangrene and amputation are often preventable if patients are educated and carefully monitor their feet for problems daily and seek medical intervention when a problem develops.

The only way to manage diabetes is to change the lifestyle of the diabetic patient, which includes eating habits. The main way to help a patient’s lifestyle is to see a medical doctor. After seeking medical help, a diabetic diet and aerobic exercise can have amazing results, usually allowing a patient to live a long, healthy life with all of their limbs.  Do what is right and do not neglect yourself. Your life depends on it.

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