In previous posts, we’ve discussed ways to prevent limb loss due to diabetic complications. Diabetes is responsible for over 60 percent of all non-traumatic lower-limb amputations, according to the Diabetes Council. Twenty-five percent of all diabetics will experience a foot ulcer at some point in their life, and a majority of those will require amputation. However, sometimes after months or years of care and lack of mobility due to a lingering ulcer or infection, amputation offers the best quality of life or maybe the only way to save a life.
Amputation comes with grief, but there are more options and opportunities for individuals with limb loss than ever before. Diabetic skin care is important before amputation (as demonstrated in our previous Diabetes and Limb Loss post), and it will continue to play an invaluable role in your mobility and health after amputation.
When Diabetes Leads to Limb Loss
Many factors contribute to limb loss, but it generally comes down to some kind of foot injury that won’t heal due to poor circulation and immune function. Nerve damage can make it difficult to feel the injury, allowing it to get worse before you stop it. Something as small as a blister can develop, fester, and eventually lead to gangrene. At that point, amputation may save your life.
Caring for Residual Skin
Skin care remains a crucial part of your diabetes care and now your residual (the stump of your amputated limb). Residual skin is under unique stresses that it wasn’t designed to take. It now must withstand the pressure and torsion of your body weight and prosthesis. The fit of your prosthesis, the liner, and (possibly) socks can help you get the right fit and stay comfortable. However, some unique skin issues will need to be addressed in your daily skincare routine.
Check Residual Skin Daily
Check the skin of your natural limb as you always have, and add the skin on your residual to that daily routine. Be sure to check all angles, even those that are hard to see. Get help or use a mirror for those out-of-sight areas.
The skin on your residual will still face circulatory issues related to diabetes in addition to the extra stress of a prosthesis. Consequently, it’s incredibly important to be aware of and immediately treat any red spots, sores, scratches, cracks, rashes, and changes to the skin’s condition. If a skin issue doesn’t clear up within a couple of days, call your doctor.
Keep the Residual Clean
The environment within a prosthesis socket is warm and moist, making it a haven for bacteria and fungus. Use a gentle cleanser like VitalFit’s Daily Cleanser to keep the skin clean. This formula is soap-free and contains natural ingredients that reduce inflammation, bacteria, and odor. It’s designed to specifically strengthen residual and diabetic skin.
Moisturize the Skin Day and Night
Residual skin can easily get chafed, dry, or crack because of the stress it’s under. VitalFit’s Day Moisturizer features antimicrobial ingredients to prevent infections as well as moisturizers that nourish and strengthen dry skin. After washing your residual, completely dry your skin, and apply the moisturizer. Let it fully absorb into the skin before donning your prosthesis.
Moisturize before bed, too. Your skin heals while you sleep. VitalFit’s Night Moisturizer contains ingredients that support and promote healing to keep your skin supple and strong.
Perspiration and friction take a toll on residual skin in the form of painful chafing. A good prosthesis fit is an absolute must to prevent skin irritation. However, when temperatures rise, you’ll need to be more aggressive in your skin care to prevent chafing.
After applying moisturizer, apply Vital-Fit’s Liquid-to-Powder Plus. This product applies like a lotion but dries to a powder finish that creates a friction barrier between your skin and liner. It’s an excellent way to stay comfortable and mobile if you’re heavily perspiring.
Final Thoughts—New Life with a Prosthesis
The limb loss community is one of support, where prosthesis, adaptations, and mobility maintenance take center stage. Today, there are over 200 types of prosthetic feet and 75 different prosthetic knees.
There are single pivot point designs, multi-axial designs for uneven terrain, and high-performance carbon fiber and fiberglass feet for walking and running. Prosthetic knees can now feature hydraulic pistons, some computer-controlled, to provide more accurate and controlled movement patterns. Organizations like the Amputee Coalition offer ways to connect with other amputees as well as provide resources to find local activity and informational groups.
Skin care, both before and after amputation, keeps you mobile and active. Make daily skin checks, cleansing, and moisturizing a part of your daily routine. And remember—you are not alone on this journey.