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Simple Steps Can Reduce Amputation Rate by Half

Diane Fennell

February 1, 2013

Foot complications that lead to amputation are among the most feared consequences of uncontrolled diabetes. But according to researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, shoe inserts, podiatry (foot treatment), regular foot checkups, and information can reduce the number of amputations due to diabetes by 50%. More than half of all amputations in the United States are caused by diabetes complications.

The researchers have been studying diabetic foot complications since 2008, with a focus on protecting the foot sole from being overloaded in order to reduce the risk of ulcers, which can lead to amputations. The team recently completed a study of 114 people, average age of 58, who had lived with diabetes for an average of 12 years and were at risk of developing foot ulcers.

Over a period of two years, the participants wore one of three different types of shoe inserts. At the end of the study, only 0.9% of the participants had developed foot ulcers, compared to the 3–8% rate that is typically reported for similar populations of people with diabetes.

Researcher Ulla Tang noted, “We found that good shoes and inserts can reduce pressure on the foot by 50% compared with going barefoot. Our conclusion at the end of one year is that all three types of inserts effectively distribute pressure under the sole in order to minimize the risk of ulcers.”

The researchers also found that only 67% of the participants had been offered podiatry, despite the fact that 83% had calluses. Thick calluses can press into the foot, causing pain, and in people with diabetes, calluses may hide a deep wound or ulceration. (If you have calluses, see your podiatrist for advice and treatment.)

For more information about the research, which will be presented at the International Conference on Prosthetics and Orthotics in Hyderabad, India, later this month, read the article “Amputations Among People With Diabetes Can Be Reduced by 50%, Research Suggests.” And to learn more about caring for your feet, click here.

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