Learning how to manage your diabetes is crucial to preventing the serious complications that can result from this disease, including amputations.

Typically, diabetes-related amputations result from severe nerve damage and poor blood circulation, particularly in the feet. Because of these problems, a person's feet become vulnerable to ulcers or skin sores, which, in turn, can result in irreparable bone and tissue damage that requires foot amputation. In fact, 88 percent of foot amputations start with a foot ulcer.

Researchers in Sweden have observed, however, that because diabetic patients now receive better information regarding foot care, amputation rates are decreasing. Their study examined a pool of diabetic and non-diabetic patients who underwent amputations between the years 2000 and 2006. While diabetic patients were more likely to suffer foot infections and kidney disorders, the rate of amputations above the ankle for this group went down 60 percent during the study period.

Risk Factors for Amputations

Although amputations are rare, certain factors can increase a diabetic's risks, such as the following:

Being male. Rates of amputations for men are double that of women.
Your race. African-Americans are nearly twice as likely as other races to develop infections that can lead to amputation.
Being age 65 or older. People in this age group have the majority of diabetes-related amputations.

Controlling the Disease

With diabetes rates on the rise — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 7 percent of the population (23.6 million Americans) currently have diabetes — learning how to control this disease is more important than ever. Detecting and treating foot lesions early, maintaining proper glucose levels, and managing potential complications from diabetes, such as kidney disorders and arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), are crucial to avoiding amputations.

Along with guidance from your health care provider, resources such as Diabetic Connect can provide information to help diabetics learn how to prevent nerve damage and care for their feet.