A person receives a test for diabetes during Care Harbor LA free medical clinic in Los Angeles, California September 11, 2014. .
(photo credit: MARIO ANZUONI/REUTERS)
Almost 800 amputations caused by complications of diabetes can be prevented if patients are helped to keep their blood sugar in check and to monitor their feet to prevent sores. This is one of the goals of Diabetic Foot Awareness Week now being held in Israel through Thursday.
Of an estimated 1,000 cases in which feet are amputated each year, some 80% are due to neglect of diabetes and its symptoms, said Prof. Itamar Raz, a senior diabetologist and head of the Health Ministry’s National Diabetes Council. Shockingly, Israel holds second place among OECD countries in the rate of amputations due to diabetes.
“It is possible to prevent a significant portion of the leg and feet amputations in diabetics, Raz, who is president of the Israel Forum for a Healthful Lifestyle, said on Sunday.
The awareness week, titled “Don’t Let Diabetes Knock You Off Your Feet,” is part of the National Diabetes Prevention and Treatment Program, led by the National Diabetes Council of the Health Ministry, with the four health funds and the forum participating.
The goal is to raise awareness among diabetics about possible severe harm to the legs and how to prevent it. Interventions in diabetic patients are usually caused by the development of ulcers and foot infections that can be prevented. Such sores can be treated early to prevent amputation.
Today, diabetics are routinely invited to community health fund clinics and hospital outpatient clinics to undergo a foot examination at least once a year. However, not all patients go for the exam or know about proper footwear to prevent ulcers. Many are also ignorant about the need to contact a doctor urgently if there is any change in the appearance of the leg or foot.
During the week, health funds will call on diabetics to be examined by the medical staff, and diabetes nurses will teach patients how to examine their own feet.
“Although it is possible to successfully treat the diabetic foot and prevent many cases of deterioration and complications, too many amputations are taking place,” Raz said, “because there is not enough awareness of the issue, no organized national plan and no proper resources and budgets devoted to the treatment of diabetic feet and its complications.”
“There is not even accurate and updated data from the diabetes register regarding the extent of the complications of the disease and the amputations,” he said. “I would like to promote with the Health Ministry and the health funds a well-organized and budgeted national program to raise awareness of the subject and improve the treatment of diabetics. I also want to examine what medical technologies should be submitted to the basket of health services next year to reduce the number of amputations in Israel.”
During the week, health-fund posters at all the branches of the health funds will encourage diabetics to take off their shoes and be examined. Simple instructions will be given in how to perform a self-examination of the foot. Patients will be instructed to keep the skin supple with moisturizer, clean, and to be sure the foot is free from wounds, cuts, blisters, warts and redness. Diabetics are highly encouraged not smoke, as the habit reduces blood circulation to the limbs.