Limbs for Life
The number of Americans living with diabetes, vascular disease and other obesity-related diseases are on the rise in the United States, and subsequently, so are lower-extremity amputations. This is because the circulation problems that result from diabetes and peripheral artery disease are common causes of lower-extremity amputations.
However, there are things you can do to prevent limb loss and be proactive about your diabetes and vascular health. Baton Rouge General's Limbs for Life Initiative is in place to help people in our community find out what their risks are, and then to properly manage those risks before it's too late.
Our comprehensive program is led by our patient navigator and a team of multidisciplinary experts, who can help guide you through diagnostic testing, treatment, education and follow-up care. Some of the many services we offer include:
- Diagnostic testing and consultations
- Patient navigator services, providing care information, education and support
- Board Certified physicians representing multiple fields of medicine
- Comprehensive treatment options, including:
- Medically managed wound and diabetes care
- Surgical options, including minimally invasive procedures
- Ongoing follow-up care, with support from Baton Rouge General's inpatient and outpatient therapy/rehabilitation, social services, nutritional care and patient education programs
Limb loss seems like an extreme and rare occurrence for many people, but the truth is that nearly 2 million people in the United States are currently living with limb loss, and many of those people lost their limb due to poorly managed diabetes or vascular disease.Those who are most at risk for a lower-extremity amputation include:
- People ages 65 and older
- Diabetics, especially those with:
- Loss of sensation in the feet and legs
- Poor circulation in the feet and legs
- A prior amputation
- Those suffering from Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
- Certain ethnicities including:
- African Americans
- Hispanic Americans
- Native Americans
What is Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)?Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), is a hardening of the arteries in which fatty deposits build up inside the arterial walls. Over time, this creates obstructions which cause poor blood flow, chronic foot ulcers, and sometimes deadly blockages to the brain, arms, legs and kidneys.
- Nearly 20% of people over the age of 70 have PAD.
- On average, smokers experience symptoms of PAD 10 years earlier than non-smokers.
- If you're already feeling symptoms of PAD, your arteries may be more than 60% blocked.
- It's estimated that 1 out of every 3 diabetics over age 50 has PAD.
- If your father had a heart attack before the age of 55, or your mother had a heart attack before the age of 65, or if either had a stroke, you are at increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
It is estimated that as many as 10 million Americans are living with PAD, although many go un-diagnosed, since most people do not know about PAD and do not experience any typical signs or symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of PAD include:
- Pain, numbness or heaviness in the leg muscles while walking or climbing stairs
- Muscle cramping in the legs or buttocks
- Weak or absent pulses in the legs or feet
- Chronic or slow healing sores or wounds on the toes, feet or legs
- A pale or bluish color to the skin
- A lower temperature in one leg in comparison to the other
- Poor nail growth on the toes
- Decreased hair growth on the legs
- Erectile dysfunction, especially in diabetic men
DiabetesWhether you're a diabetic who has already undergone limb loss or not, you should work with your endocrinologist to develop daily self-management practices.
- Practice daily foot inspection and care, paying close attention to any slow healing or chronic wounds.
- Visit your primary care physician, podiatrist and endocrinologist regularly.
- Make sure your healthcare provider does an annual check of your neurological, vascular, dermatological and musculoskeletal systems
- Actively monitor your blood glucose levels
- Take all prescribed medications
- Create your plate based on recommendations from your doctor and the American Diabetes Association
- Stop smoking
- Stay active
- Lose weight, if recommended by your doctor
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
Because PAD is a disease affecting your vascular health, many of the prevention methods are the same as those recommended to maintain good heart and vascular health. This includes:
- Regular physical activity
- Eating a well-balanced and healthy diet low in cholesterol and saturated fats
- Quit smoking
- Take any medications that have been prescribed to you by your doctor, including high blood pressure, claudication or cholesterol medications.
- If you're over the age of 50, especially if you're diabetic, talk to your doctor about PAD and what you should know.