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Written on 4th October 2018 by Rachel Makore

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of amputation of the lower limbs throughout the world. Charity Diabetes UK notes that problems of the foot are the most frequent reasons for hospitalisation amongst patients who have diabetes. The NHS reports that people who have diabetes are 15 times more likely to undergo amputations than other people without the condition.

How can diabetes lead to an amputation?

Diabetes can lead to peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD causes your blood vessels to narrow and reduces blood flow to your legs and feet. It may also cause nerve damage, known as peripheral neuropathy which can prevent you from feeling pain.

If you can’t feel pain, you may not realise you have a wound or ulcer on your feet and so it is likely that you will continue to put pressure on the affected area, which can cause it to grow and become infected.

Furthermore, reduced blood flow can slow wound healing and it can make your body less effective at fighting an infection. As a result, your wound may not heal and tissue damage or tissue death (gangrene) may occur and any existing infection may spread to your bone. If the infection cannot be stopped or the damage is irreparable, this is when an amputation may be necessary.

How can an amputation be prevented?

Many hospital admissions due to diabetes-related foot problems are preventable if the individual is aware and takes good care of their wellbeing.

Firstly, if you have been diagnosed with diabetes it is important that you maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure. Therefore, eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly is vital. It is also paramount that you take insulin and other diabetes medications as directed by your doctor and check your blood sugar levels regularly.

Secondly, good foot care as advised by the NHS may help you prevent wounds or ulcers from becoming problematic:

  • Do a daily foot check of your entire foot. Look for redness, wounds, bruising, blisters, and discoloration
  • Use a magnifying mirror to help you get a closer look at your feet
  • If you are unable to check your feet, have someone else check them for you
  • Regularly check your feet for sensation using a feather or other light object
  • Regularly check to see if your feet can feel warm and cold temperatures
  • Wear thin, clean, dry socks that don’t have elastic bands
  • Wiggle your toes throughout the day and move your ankles frequently to keep the blood flowing in your feet
  • Report any foot problems and neuropathy symptoms such as numbness, burning, and tingling to your doctor right away

What happens if I have had a diabetes related amputation?

Our specialised medical negligence team are experienced in acting for amputee clients who are living with serious disability caused by negligent medical treatment of diabetic complications.

If you would like to find out more about caring for your diabetes check out the Diabetes UK website.

If you have suffered or are expecting to undergo an amputation and would like to find out whether you have a claim, you can speak in confidence to one of our skilled amputation team at