April is National Limb Loss Awareness Month.

The American Diabetes Association has credited April as National Limb Loss Awareness Month as a way to properly explain and spread awareness of one of the most severe health consequences of having diabetes. Amputation is occasionally found to be the result of nerve damage and poor blood circulation that may arise from more critical diabetic conditions. These types of health problems can lead to developing a diabetic foot ulcer, which if not properly treated, could result in the removal of a limb.

According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 60 percent of nontraumatic lower-limb amputations in the United States occur in people with diabetes. Such a serious health hazard is always met with establishing appropriate guidelines toward recovery. However, researchers have recently discovered that current rehabilitation methods for those who have recently endured amputation might be in need of an upgrade.

Researchers from the University of Missouri have analyzed the brain functioning of amputees who have endured chronic dominant hand loss to see if future tactics of rehabilitation should be enhanced to ensure a better quality of life. The professors examined a number of amputees to engage in drawing tests with their non-dominant hand, while comparing their brain activity while participating in the study to those using their preferred hand.

After compiling the results of the drawing test, the researchers found that subjects who were forced to use their non-dominant left hands for the study performed precision tasks just as well as those who were using their dominant right hands. When examining each group’s brain activity during drawing, the professors also discovered that areas within the body that used to provide motor and sensory functions in the amputated hand were now contributing activity toward the non-dominant hand, in order to help compensate for the loss. Essentially, the amputees were displaying increases of performance related activity in both the right and left hemispheres in their brain.

Scott Frey, a professor at the University of Missouri and lead author of the study, felt that his team’s research could not only help better prepare those who are scheduled for an amputation, but also help improve recovery procedures for those dealing with limb loss by studying how amputees deal with scenarios of using their non-dominant body parts.

“Our project analyzed the consequences of losing your dominant hand and how behaviors change for amputees,” Frey said in a statement. “We also used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study brain function in people adapting to those situations. Our hope is that by studying how amputees cope in these circumstances, we can help improve rehabilitation methods and quality of life in patients facing this loss.”

Coping with amputation

According to Temple University, there are more than 70,000 people with diabetes who undergo a lower extremity amputation every year. The foot is the most common form of limb loss associated with the disease, primarily from the development of a diabetic foot ulcer. A few ways to help prevent the occurrence of amputation include:

  • Daily inspections of your feet for ulcers, blisters or any cuts
  • Carefully trim your toenails
  • Avoid walking barefoot
  • Make sure your shoes fit comfortably and don’t constrict blood flow
  • Wash your feet every day
  • Do not under any circumstances attempt to remove an ulcer, calluses or wart without proper medical observation

Even if there are no signs of pressure ulcers or cuts of any kind emerging, it is still a good idea to schedule monthly foot check-ups, especially if you are a diabetic. If you are concerned about a possible pressure ulcer developing on your foot, see your clinician today to receive the proper medical care you need.

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