Rise in amputations and leg ulcers affecting Tipperary Diabetes sufferers

Health advice

Rise in amputations and leg ulcers affecting Tipperary Diabetes sufferers

A “frightening” number of people with diabetes end up in hospital – in Tipperary the last year there has been an almost 50% increase in foot ulcers.

People with diabetes have special reason to take good care of their feet. Long term high blood glucose levels may make feet susceptible to injury and infection. This is because the protective sensation in the toes or feet, the “pain alarm system” may slowly disappear with long term high blood glucose levels.

In Tipperary, last year, 88 foot ulcers were treated – up from 60 the year before.

22 Tipperary people had to have a lower limb amputation in 2016 as a complication of diabetes. One more than the year before.

Latest data shows that across Ireland 2,820 (up from 2,400 in 2015) people were hospitalised in 2016 as a result of diabetes related footcare complications, with 511 (up from 451 in 2015) of those requiring lower limb amputation surgery. More worryingly, around 1030 of these patients were aged under 65 years and of working age.     

Lower limb amputation is one of the preventable potential complications of long term poorly controlled diabetes. However, due to continued under-resourcing of podiatry services, there is inadequate specialised early screening and thus the lack of early intervention in patients who require it.

Dr Ronan Canavan, Consultant Endocrinologist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin said “the HSE provided no extra podiatry posts in 2017 yet we are seeing year on year increases in the number of people requiring in hospital treatment for diabetes related foot complications and lower limb loss at huge cost to the exchequer.

Therefore, I want to encourage people with diabetes to take care of their feet with daily examination and be on the lookout for small cuts, changes in skin colour and temperature, red areas and swelling. They also have to check they have continuing sensation in their feet and be alert to signs such as prickly pain in the feet, numbness and peculiar sensations such as a feeling of walking on cotton or of wearing tight socks. This is important as without a pain alarm system, injuries and poor fitting shoes may go unnoticed. Where people do find problems with their feet they should immediately seek medical advice”.    

The estimated in-patient hospital cost to treating 2,820 people with diabetes related foot complications in 2016 is at least €84m. Between them, these patients spent a total of 32,490 days in hospital for treatment.  

Roisin Shortall TD said “it is frightening to see the number of diabetes patients requiring hospitalisation for foot ulceration treatment as research has shown that foot complications are almost completely preventable by regular screening of diabetes patients and by early intervention by podiatrists in those requiring urgent in-depth treatment”. 

People with diabetes should have their feet examined at least annually by a healthcare professional who can examine their feet for sensation and abrasions. People can also access Diabetes Ireland Podiatry services in Cork and Dublin.

Further information on how best to look after your feet is available free online at https://www.diabetes.ie/living-with-diabetes/living-with-type-2/managing-diabetes/footcare/