How Diabetes Causes Amputations

Generally, when people think about diabetes, they think about having to take insulin and avoiding sweets. Most people aren’t aware of the more severe effects that diabetes can bring about for patients. This includes damaging the limbs so much that they need to be amputated. How exactly does diabetes result in a person losing their leg? The answer is a disease called Peripheral Arterial Disease.

The root cause of the disease is diabetes. Our body produces nitric oxide gas which keeps our blood vessels working smoothly. The gas helps the vessels clean themselves. The problem is that when the blood sugar is heightened in diabetes patients, the efficiency of nitric oxide goes down, which means it is no longer effectively keeping the vessels clean. These vessels slowly start building up fat deposits—because the fat deposits aren’t being dissolved, due to the lack of nitric oxide.

These deposits then start limiting the supply of blood. This disease affects the whole body, but some of the body’s longest vessels are the ones going to our feet, which exacerbates the issue much more than anywhere else in the body. Any part of the body which does not get a proper flow of blood stops working properly. Since the blood flow is lowered, so is the amount of feeling in our feet.

This then results in people developing wounds and cuts without feeling anything, which slowly get infected and the infection spreads, resulting in the need for amputation. If the infection is caught early, it can be treated easily, but if it is found later on—which is often the case in diabetic patients – people can end up losing a foot. This has always been a big problem, but the rising rates of diabetes all across the world only increase its significance.

Linh Le