A record 169 people a week are having to undergo an amputation procedure as a result of diabetes, a study has found.
Analysis by the charity Diabetes UK found that 26,378 people had lower limb amputations linked to diabetes between 2014 and 2017, a 19.4% rise from 2010 to 2013.
Unhealed ulcers and foot infections are the main cause of diabetes-related amputations. Diabetes affects almost 3.7 million people in the UK.
Dan Howarth, head of care at Diabetes UK, said: “The shocking number of lower limb amputations related to diabetes grows year on year. An amputation, regardless of whether it’s defined as minor or major, is devastating and life-changing. A minor amputation can still involve losing a whole foot.”
The statistics are a reminder of the relentless increase in the number of people with diabetes. About 90% of diabetes patients in the UK have type 2 diabetes, which is linked to people’s lifestyles and obesity. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition unrelated to weight.
The charity urged NHS England to maintain beyond 2019 its £44m diabetes “transformation fund”, which aims to improve patients’ access to specialist foot care teams to help avoid amputations.
It said at least £1 in every £140 spent by the NHS went towards foot care for people with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes now affects nearly 7,000 young Britons
Read more Howarth said: “Many diabetes amputations are avoidable, but the quality of foot care for people living with diabetes varies significantly across England. Transformation funding since 2017 is working and will help to reduce these variations, but much work still needs to be done.”
A study in 2014 revealed that diabetes accounted for 44% of all lower limb amputations in the UK, while separate analysis found that diabetic foot ulcers led to more than 80% of amputations linked to the condition.
Diabetes UK said it was vital that all people living with diabetes knew how to look after their feet and checked them regularly to look out for the signs of problems. It was also crucial they knew how important it was to seek medical attention if they spotted any signs of foot problems. A matter of hours could make the difference between losing and keeping a foot it said. What can the town that gave up sugar teach us about diabetes and obesity?
Aseem Malhotra Read more Analysis of government figures found a 4.1% increase in major amputations between 2010-2013 and 2014-17, to 7,305 over the three years, or 47 a week.
There was a 26.5% increase in minor amputations – to 19,073, or 122 a week – over the same period, the charity found.
Prof Jonathan Valabhji, NHS England’s national clinical director for diabetes and obesity, said: “The chance of someone with diabetes having a major amputation is actually going down, with far lower amputation rates than in countries such as Germany. But, as the absolute number of people with diabetes goes up, the number of people at risk of amputations goes up too.”
Diabetes is a condition where a person’s blood glucose level is too high. It is the most common cause of lower limb amputations in the UK due to high blood sugar levels damaging blood vessels and affecting how blood flows to the feet and legs.
Someone living with diabetes is 20 times more likely to experience an amputation than someone without the condition.
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