MOST cases of limb loss can be prevented! And that is true even for people who suffer from peripheral vascular disease (PVD). As mentioned in the previous article, PVD is often the result of diabetes. Happily, diabetes can often be controlled.
“Diet is the cornerstone of diabetic treatment whether or not insulin is prescribed,” says The Encyclopædia Britannica. Dr. Marcel Bayol, of Kings County Hospital in New York City, told Awake!: “If diabetics take their condition seriously, watch their diet, and submit to medical supervision, they will reduce their risk of having to lose a lower limb.” Type II diabetics who follow this advice may even see their symptoms improve in time.
Exercise Is Vital
Exercise is also important. It helps the body maintain glucose, or sugar, levels within the normal range. When PVD is in evidence, exercise helps maintain vital strength, flexibility, and blood flow to damaged areas. Exercise also helps to minimize intermittent claudication—the pain PVD sufferers may feel in their calf muscles when they walk or exercise.
However, such ones should avoid exercises that stress and jar their legs. More suitable exercises include walking, bicycling, rowing, swimming, and aqua aerobics. One should always consult a doctor before dieting or beginning a special program of exercise.
Smoking, of course, should be taboo to anyone who wants good health. PVD is just one of a long list of medical problems that smoking either causes or aggravates. “Smoking is a big factor in amputations, especially when the smoker has diabetes and PVD,” said Dr. Bayol. How big a factor? A rehabilitation guide for amputees says that “amputation is 10 times higher among smokers than non-smokers.”
Care for Sick Limbs
PVD can decrease circulation to the lower limbs, which can bring on a condition called neuropathy—a deadening, or numbing, of the nerves. Limbs then become vulnerable to injury, even while a person is simply resting in bed. For example, because he cannot feel any pain, a sufferer could receive a serious burn if his electric blanket or heating pad were to overheat! For this reason, manufacturers caution diabetics to be careful when using these products.
Sick limbs are also more prone to infection. Just a small scratch can lead to ulcers, even gangrene. So foot care is vital, and this includes wearing comfortable, well-fitting shoes and keeping legs and feet clean and dry. Many hospitals have foot clinics that educate patients in foot care.
When PVD has advanced to the point that surgical intervention is required, surgeons will usually try to avoid amputation. One alternate procedure is balloon angioplasty. A vascular surgeon inserts a catheter with a balloon tip. The balloon is inflated, which then stretches the constricted artery. Another option is bypass surgery—the replacement of badly diseased blood vessels with vessels taken from another part of the body.
Barbara, who is 54 years old, has endured Type I diabetes since the age of four. After she gave birth to her first child, she developed PVD in her feet. Some doctors advised her to have them amputated. However, Barbara found a reputable vascular surgeon who used angioplasty to improve blood circulation to her feet. Angioplasty worked for a time, but eventually Barbara needed a bypass, which was successful. Barbara now takes meticulous care of her feet.
Trauma is the second leading cause of limb loss. Less discriminate in its choice of body members, trauma can result in the destruction of any body part. However, a godly view of life can do much to reduce a person’s risk of trauma. Whether working, driving, or enjoying recreation, Christians should treat their bodies as a gift from God. Thus, they would want to respect all safety requirements and avoid taking foolish risks.—Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 7:1.
What is being done to reduce the risk of trauma in lands sown with mines? Government-sponsored mine-awareness programs are in place in many countries. According to a report of the United Nations secretary-general, these programs teach “populations at risk . . . how to minimize their chances of becoming victims while living and working in mined areas.”
Sadly, “people become accustomed to the presence of mines and grow careless,” says a United Nations report. “Sometimes religious factors encourage [people] to adopt a fatalistic attitude towards such dangers.” A fatalistic attitude, however, finds no support in God’s Word. On the contrary, the Bible encourages caution and safety.—Deuteronomy 22:8; Ecclesiastes 10:9.
So by exercising caution and taking reasonable steps to protect your health, you can greatly reduce your risk of losing a limb. But what about those who have already lost limbs? Can they still enjoy a good quality of life?