While the number of diabetic patients who receive amputations decreased in the past 20 years, diabetics still have over a 15 percent chance of having an amputation due to complications of their disease. They also stand an even higher chance if they have specific complications or previous amputations. As a doctor, it’s your duty to encourage health in your patients and advocate for their quality of life and wellbeing. What you can do, beyond treatment, is inform your patients of the ways they can help prevent amputation on their own.
Develop healthy eating habits
Encourage your patients to come up with a lifestyle change they can realistically stick to. Advocate for healthy meals, reasonable caloric intake, and help them understand what a healthy diet may look like for them. You could highlight they should cut out sugary drinks and all sodas, and they should instead work on drinking enough water. Stress the importance of exercising at least 30 minutes a day and keeping their feet engaged all day. Hearing all this advice at once can be daunting to patients, especially newly diagnosed diabetics. To make them feel these goals are attainable, remind them why each piece of advice is important.
Stress is a possible factor that may contribute to a higher risk of amputation. Encourage your patients to find sources of relief for their stress, and they should look for ways to minimize their exposure to stressors. While some level of stress is an unavoidable part of the human experience, your patients can minimize many unnecessary stressors with proper outlets, such as exercise, hobbies, and time with loved ones.
Monitor blood sugar levels closely
Although you probably already advocate for your patients to monitor their blood sugar levels closely, a brief reminder that these levels play an important role in their health may be necessary. Remind them how to properly check their blood sugar and what to do if it’s too high or too low.
Follow physician’s instructions and plans meticulously
This is a harder tip to communicate to patients because you can only advocate so much. Patients either will or will not follow your instructions properly. Reminders that you have their health and overall best interests at heart when recommending practices and medications may help encourage your more particular patients to heed your treatment plan.
Check and care for feet
Make sure your patients, or a caregiver or family member if the patient can’t do so themselves, know how to check their feet daily. This is a major way you can advocate for them to take charge of their own amputation prevention. Tell them the warning signs to look out for and when to contact you. Try to drive home that when caught early enough, most infections won’t lead to amputations.
Wear the right socks and shoes
Remind patients to look for socks and shoes that fit properly, as it might help decrease the risk of developing blisters and other gateways to harmful foot ulcers. If your patient has poor circulation brought on by diabetes, give them compression sock recommendations and explain how they can help stimulate blood flow. If you deem it necessary, prescribe them a certain compression level, and see how they react before moving forward.