Healable diabetic foot disease has higher death rate than almost all cancers

TORONTO – Nearly one third of diabetics who need a foot amputation will die within the next year, and two thirds will die within five years, according to data presented Thursday at the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) conference.

This five-year mortality rate is higher than almost all cancers-except lung and pancreatic-and what’s just as shocking is that these diabetes-related foot wounds can be healed if treated effectively in time.

But is this problem common?

The CDA estimates that 15 per cent of Canadians with diabetes – over 400,000 people –will develop a foot ulcer in their lifetime.

Contributing factors to the risk of foot ulcers for diabetics include nerve damage causing loss of sensation, which allows cuts or injuries to go unnoticed, and blockages in blood vessels as well as decreased immune function that make it hard for wounds to heal.

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Canadians with diabetes are 23 times more likely to need a limb amputation than those without the disease, and 85 per cent of those amputations are because of a foot ulcer that hasn’t healed, according to the CDA release.

“Today, around the world, every five seconds someone develops diabetes. Every 10 seconds someone dies from diabetes and every 20 seconds there is a diabetic lower limb amputation,” said Dr. Perry Mayer in a release. Mayer is the medical director of The Mayer Institute (TMI), a centre in Ontario that specializes in advanced diabetes foot and wound care.

He said that in order to prevent amputation, diabetics should engage in a foot care regimen, daily foot inspection, and use proper footwear.

“The management of diabetic foot disease is as vital to the health of our patients as is the treatment of diabetic eye disease, kidney disease or heart disease and, yet, it is routinely under-diagnosed and undertreated,” said Mayer.

Mayer will be addressing the 15th Annual Conference of the Canadian Diabetes Association/Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Vancouver Convention Centre Thursday at 4:30 p.m. PT.

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