“Here today, gone tomorrow” can describe a diabetic’s foot. Here are five ways that a foot surgeon says a diabetic can prevent amputations and other problems with the feet.

Diabetics do NOT have to lose their feet, let alone legs, to amputation!

There are five key things that a diabetic can do that will prevent the need for a foot amputation or the development of serious foot problems, says Peter D. Highlander, DPM, Reconstructive Foot & Ankle Surgeon, Director, Wound Reconstruction Center, The Bellevue Hospital, Bellevue OH.

Routine Foot Checks amputation
“The first line of prevention is checking the soles of the feet at least twice daily (morning and night),” says Dr. Highlander.

“If your eyesight or flexibility prevent you from observing the bottoms of your feet, then have a spouse check or purchase a plexi-glass mirror to aid in the process.”

If you live alone or otherwise do not see a caring individual on a daily basis, you must acquire the habit of using a mirror, and you can supplement this with reading glasses (depending on your vision) that will magnify the area of inspection. A magnifying glass will also help for those with visual issues.

Shoes prevent foot amputation
“Avoid going barefoot and open footwear,” advises Dr. Highlander. Seems like these days, going barefoot is the thing to do.

Though our very ancient ancestors routinely went barefoot, this doesn’t mean that in today’s day and age, it’s safe – especially for diabetics.

Nor is it sightly if you don’t keep your feet and toenails clean and healthy looking.

Dr. Highlander continues, “See your local podiatrist [foot doctor] for diabetic shoes and protective orthotics which is a paid service by most private and government insurers to those patients who qualify.”

Routine Foot Inspections by a Doctor
A doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM) should regularly inspect your feet. Don’t rely on only a primary care physician.

“Research has shown that diabetic patients who routinely see a podiatrist were much less likely to undergo an amputation compared to diabetic patients who did not see a podiatrist,” says Dr. Highlander.

“Depending on risk factors determined by your podiatrist will determine how often you should be seen, but a minimum annual to biannual checkups are necessary for those with low risk. Patients with higher risk are to be seen more often.”

Seek Treatment ASAP amputation
“Accidents happen and we all get blisters and other minor injuries from time to time,” begins Dr. Highlander.

“If a break in the skin is noted then you should be seen. It is much easier for your foot doctor to issue successful treatment early in the process.

“Nearly all patients who undergo amputations will note putting off being seen by a foot doctor for many reasons; none of them are justified.

“If you’re diabetic and you notice a break in the skin to a foot, then call today to be seen by a podiatrist ASAP.

“If you are concerned for infection, then go to the nearest emergency department.”

Don’t think for a second that you have some kind of built-in protection factor for foot amputations, such as being young or athletic.

Years ago along Chicago’s famed Magnificent Mile, where throngs of people gather to play “power” volleyball, I spotted a young man in a wheelchair eagerly watching some players in action.

He was made up of a head, torso and a single arm. The rest of his body was short stumps – raw and fresh looking, as though the limbs had been cut off just a few days prior.

I asked someone what had happened. I was told that just a few weeks ago, that very man had been on the beach playing power volleyball with those same athletes – but that he had gotten careless with his type 1 diabetes management.

Type 1 or 2 diabetes, a sore or wound does not turn into a raging spreading infection and dead tissue sooner than you can get to a medical clinic for an evaluation and treatment.

Stop Smoking prevent foot amputation
Cigarettes are called “cancer sticks.” They can also be called “amputation sticks.” They are among a diabetic’s worst enemies.

Dr. Highlander explains, “Diabetes alone affects the immune system and the body’s ability to heal on its own.

“Smoking or any source of nicotine also compromises the ability to heal. Nicotine causes the blood vessels in your lower extremities to constrict which restricts blood flow, and this process continues for up to 45 minutes after the last nicotine exposure.

“With chronic nicotine exposure, the blood vessels become permanently diseased. All in all, diabetes and active nicotine use is a recipe for disaster and often ends with someone losing a limb.”

Dr. Highlander provides advanced treatment and prevention options for lower extremity wounds with a special interest in deformity correction and soft tissue coverage for non-healing wounds.