Blood vessel and nerve damage linked with diabetes can lead to serious infections that are extremely hard to treat. Often the first place you have a problem is your feet. When you lose the ability to feel your toes and feet, you are more likely to injure them without knowing it. Even a minor injury, such as a small cut, can develop into an ulcer and a serious infection.
Infections of the feet can spread up into the leg. Sometimes the infection is so severe that toes, the foot, and/or possibly part of the leg must be amputated.
Amputations are done when efforts to save the foot or leg are unsuccessful or the infection is causing extensive tissue damage. In all cases, doctors save as much of a person's foot or leg as possible. But they try to make sure that the remaining part of the limb will heal so that further surgery is not needed.
A serious infection can be life-threatening. In these cases, an amputation may save your life.
If you are faced with needing an amputation, talk with your doctor about how it can benefit you. Often amputation relieves the severe pain linked with an infection, as well as getting rid of the infection and the need to take strong antibiotics. Also, modern prosthetic devices are lightweight, making walking as easy as possible after an amputation.
Having a foot or leg amputated is traumatic and means a major body-image change. Allow yourself time to grieve and deal with what losing a part of your body means to you. If you need help, talk with your doctor about emotional counselling. You may also find it helpful to talk with a person who has had an amputation.
Current as of: December 20, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Donald Sproule, MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Jennifer Hone, MD - Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism