amputated limb with healthcare worker; diabetic amputation

Diabetic Amputations: Why They Occur and How to Prevent Them

Diabetic amputations are mostly avoidable with medication, healthy diet, and regular exercise. But there are some pockets of the American population who are greatly affected by diabetic amputations.

Who is affected?

A 2014 UCLA study found that people living with diabetes within Los Angeles County’s poorest neighborhoods were twice as likely to require diabetic amputations within their lifetime than those in wealthier areas. Even more alarming, the difference was more than tenfold in some parts of the country with greater wealth disparities.

The problem is widely economic, and this contributing factor also intersects with race, ethnicity, and geography.  Doctors in California performed more than 82,000 diabetic amputations between the years of 2011 and 2017. According to a Kaiser Health News analysis, about half of those amputations occurred to people who were black or Latino.


Why are these demographics are hit hard?

People living with poverty may delay medical care and diabetes management for many reasons. For example, they can’t afford the copay, their clinic is too far away, they have limited insurance, or they can’t take time off work.

Even if they’re able to see a doctor, there might be other mitigating factors that prevent them from following a health plan, like being unable to afford fresh, healthy food and medication.

However, diabetic amputations can drastically alter a person’s life, and even result in a shortened lifespan. Research shows that most people who receive a diabetic amputation will die within five years of surgery.

Tips for taking care of your feet

Although lower limb amputations are not the only kind of diabetic amputations that occur, they are the most common.

Here are 10 steps for taking care of your feet if you have diabetes:

  1. Wash your feet with warm water and mild soap every day.
  2. Check your feet for sores and cuts every day.
  3. Apply lotion to feet after you wash and dry them.
  4. Do not rub lotion between your toes.
  5. Gently smooth corns and calluses with a pumice stone.
  6. Check your toenails once a week.
  7. Always wear well-fitting, closed-toe shoes and socks.
  8. Protect your feet from heat and cold.
  9. Do not smoke.
  10. Encourage blood flow by putting your feet up when sitting.

To prevent a diabetic amputation, follow your doctor’s orders. If you have decreased sensitivity in your limbs, especially your feet, check them regularly for cuts, sores, and infections.