Call to end diabetes amputations

image captionDiabetes sufferers should get their feet checked regularly by health professionals

There were 199 lower limb diabetes related amputations in Northern Ireland between March 2010 and April 2011.

Diabetes UK Northern Ireland has said 80% of those were preventable.

The Putting Feet First campaign, launched on Tuesday, hopes to reduce amputations by 50% in five years.

Diabetic foot problems arise from reduced circulation to the feet and damaged nerve endings in the feet so the campaign aims to educate people on how to look after their feet.

"A single preventable amputation is one too many so the fact that hundreds of people in Northern Ireland have endured unnecessary foot amputations is nothing short of shameful," said Iain Foster from Diabetes UK NI.

"Many people with diabetes aren't even aware that amputation is a potential complication.

"We also need to make sure that people with diabetes understand what health care they should be getting."

"Foot ulcers can deteriorate in a matter of hours so failing to refer someone quickly enough can literally be the difference between losing a foot and keeping it."

The charity will work GP practices and A&E departments to increase awareness of the signs of early complications and the need for a quick and timely referral to specialist staff.

Diabetes UK Northern Ireland also want everyone with diabetes to get a thorough annual foot check and for foot ulcers to be referred to specialist diabetes foot care teams within 24 hours.

There are currently 73,500 people in Northern Ireland diagnosed with diabetes.

Sam Wright, 56, from Conlig was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes more than 10 years ago but admits that he did not initially take care of his condition.

In December 2008 he started to experience problems with his left foot

"In March 2009, my life changed forever," he said.

"This is when my left leg was amputated, just below the knee, in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

"All this could possibly have been avoided if I had seen a podiatrist on a regular basis.

"Instead I left it until hard skin developed on my left heel. This skin then cracked and eventually ulcerated.

"I went to the local doctors on Monday morning - by Monday afternoon I was admitted to hospital and I was operated on that evening to try and save my foot.

"This was unsuccessful and the following Wednesday my leg was amputated."

People can find out more about the campaign at the Diabetes UKwebsite.

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