Jump in amputations linked to diabetes

18 December 2018 08:52

Around 3.7 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes

Around 3.7 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes

The number of diabetes-related lower limb amputations has jumped by nearly a fifth in England over recent years, a leading charity has warned.

According to Diabetes UK, 26,378 amputations were carried out between 2014 and 2017, up from 22,092 between 2010 and 2013 - an increase of 19.4%.

There has been a significant rise in minor lower limb amputations (26.5%), defined as below the ankle, and a more gradual increase in the number of major lower limb amputations (4.1%), defined as below the knee.

Around 3.7 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes, with approximately 90% of these living with type 2 diabetes.

Increased risk

People with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of developing problems in their feet because high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, affecting how blood flows to the feet and legs.

Unhealed ulcers and foot infections are the leading cause of diabetes-related amputations, with diabetic foot ulcers preceding more than 80% of amputations.

The condition is the most common cause of lower limb amputations in the UK and someone living with diabetes is 20 times more likely to experience an amputation than someone without it, the charity said.

Foot ulcers and amputations are also hugely costly for the NHS, with at least £1 in every £140 of NHS spending going towards foot care for patients with diabetes.

Foot problems can be devastating to a person's quality of life and are often life-threatening, the charity warned.

Improving access

It said that since 2017, NHS England's Diabetes Transformation Fund has invested more than £80 million in improving access to specialist footcare teams to help people with diabetes look after their feet and avoid amputations.

The fund has also been used to increase education for people with diabetes, to help them manage their condition and understand the actions they must take to avoid complications that can lead to amputation.

The charity is now calling on NHS England to commit to maintaining the Diabetes Transformation Fund beyond 2019.

Dan Howarth, head of care at Diabetes UK, said: "The shocking number of lower limb amputations related to diabetes grows year on year.

"To reduce the number of amputations related to diabetes, we are calling on NHS England to maintain the Diabetes Transformation Fund beyond 2019.

"Many diabetes amputations are avoidable, but the quality of footcare for people living with diabetes varies significantly across England.

"Transformation funding since 2017 is working and will help to reduce these variations, but much work still needs to be done."

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