THERE are more than 4400 amputations every year in Australia as a result of diabetes - the second-highest rate in the developed world. And up to 85 per cent of these could be prevented.
Now Australian diabetes experts have called time on the problem, lobbying the federal government to implement a diabetes amputation prevention initiative to ensure systematic early detection of foot problems and early treatment to prevent amputations.
"The number of diabetes-related amputations of toes, feet and limbs is a national tragedy and we need to do more as a community to save limbs, to save lives and to save hospital budgets," said Diabetes Australia chief executive Greg Johnson.
"Diabetes-related amputations cost the Australian health system around $875 million per year. On top of this, there is a huge personal cost to the individual and their family."
Professor Johnson said it was important that people with diabetes understand how to look after their feet, and that they have access to specialised foot healthy teams when they need to.
"We can end most diabetes-related amputations within a generation - but we need to act urgently," he said.
A new, hard-hitting awareness campaign - 4400 Reasons to End Amputations - features the stories of Paul Walker and Ida Ratiner, who have both lived with type 2 diabetes for many years and have narrowly avoided having limbs amputated thanks to innovative treatment.
"Every year, thousands of Australians are not so lucky and have to undergo traumatic and debilitating amputations," Professor Johnson said.
"The sad truth is that health outcomes for people undergoing major amputations are poor. Many people will die in the first five years after a major amputation."
In 2005, more than 1000 people with diabetes died as a direct result of foot ulcers and lower limb wounds - that's about 8 per cent of all diabetes related deaths.
Check your feet every day. If you have any of the following symptoms seek medical treatment immediately:
- Unusual swelling
- Ingrown nail
- Bruising or cuts
Wear footwear that doesn't rub against your feet and fits well.
Have regular visits with a podiatrist and have your feet checked by your doctor or other health professional once a year.
Diabetes Australia Helpline 1300-136-588 www.diabetesaustralia.com.au