BY YANN TEAR
Shocking new health statistics have revealed a huge hike in the number of diabetes sufferers in Lewisham having to undergo lower limb amputations in the past three years.
Charity Diabetes UK has shown that there were 131 below-ankle operations directly caused by diabetes affecting people living in the borough between 2014 and 2017, compared to 82 between 2010 and 2013 – a rise of nearly 60 per cent.
An increase has been reported in most of the region, with a sharp rise also seen in Southwark’s from 72 to 109 (51 per cent); Lambeth’s from 82 to 109 (37.5 per cent); Greenwich, where there was an increase of 33 from the previous three-year period to 137 cases – a rise of 32 per cent on the figure of 104 and Bexley, where’s numbers rose from 90 to 102 (13 per cent).
The London average increase is 27.6 per cent.
Diabetes UK has no hard-and-fast theories about why some areas are so much worse than others, and says it would not like to speculate, but says there is often regional variation when it comes to prevention and treatment of foot conditions in their infancy.
People with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of developing problems in their feet because high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, affecting how blood flows to the feet and legs.
Unhealed ulcers and foot infections are the leading cause of diabetes related amputations, with diabetic foot ulcers preceding more than 80 per cent of amputations.
Diabetes is the most common cause of lower limb amputations in the UK. Someone living with diabetes is 20 times more likely to experience an amputation than someone without the condition.
Foot ulcers and amputations are also hugely costly for the NHS, with at least £1 in every £140 of NHS spending going towards foot care for people with diabetes.
Foot problems can be devastating to a person’s quality of life and are often life-threatening.
Since 2017, NHS England’s Diabetes Transformation Fund has invested more than £80million across England to improve access to specialist footcare teams to help people with diabetes look after their feet and avoid amputations.
The fund has also been used to increase uptake of structured education for people with diabetes, to help them manage their condition well and understand the actions they must take to avoid complications, which can lead to amputation.
Roz Rosenblatt, London Regional Head at Diabetes UK, said: “The shocking number of lower limb amputations caused by 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.
“Many diabetes amputations are avoidable, but the quality of footcare for people living with diabetes varies significantly across England.
“It is vital that all people living with diabetes know how to look after their feet, and check them regularly to look out for the signs of foot problems.
“It is also crucial that people with diabetes know how important it is to seek medical attention if they spot any signs of foot problems.
A matter of hours can make the difference between losing a foot and keeping a foot”.
For more information on footcare for people with diabetes, go to www.diabetes.org.uk