My uncle, who has diabetes, has recently been complaining of tingling in his lower legs. I’ve heard that many people who have diabetes eventually need their legs amputated. Will this happen to him?
It sounds as though you uncle has peripheral neuropathy. Diabetic or peripheral neuropathy is when damage occurs to the nerves in the limbs and feet. The risk of developing neuropathy increases the longer a person has had diabetes. Other risk factors include heredity, being over 40 years of age, smoking, and inconsistency in blood glucose levels.
As neuropathy progresses, it causes tingling, numbness and burning in the feet and legs, especially at night. Muscle weakness, loss of reflexes, and foot ulcers are often the result. It is often poorly managed foot ulcers that lead to amputation. (Interestingly, the vast majority of those amputations—form 50 per cent to 80 per cent—are preventable.)
To help your uncle, ensure that he sees his doctor to review his medical condition. Some very effective medications are available that can help diminish the symptoms of tingling and burning and promote better quality of walking, sleeping and living. Also, at the first sign of redness, swelling or a cut, encourage him to seek medical help immediately. Finally, regular foot care by an advanced foot care nurse is advised.