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A silent killer: How surge in diabetic foot cases is fueling amputations in Kashmir

February 8, 2024

Srinagar: Tariq (name changed) faced the consequences of his carelessness when he had to go through a foot amputation.

A 60-year-old man, he overlooked his diabetic foot, which resulted in a catastrophic loss. “For ten years, Tariq suffered from neuropathy, a diabetic complication. He was taking insulin. He didn’t take the proper medical care for his diabetic foot, which cost him a lot,” said his doctor.

Diabetic Foot is one of the most frequent side effects of uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. It typically results from peripheral vascular disease, inadequate foot care, underlying neuropathy, or poor glycemic control.  Neuropathy can harm nerves all over the body. Usually, it affects the nerves in the feet and legs to the point where the affected person loses feeling in his legs or feet. It might affect the upper and lower limbs as it progresses if left untreated.

Tariq suffered from neuropathy due to which he could’t sense anything in his foot. “One night Tariq was sleeping with a hot water bottle and when he woke up there was a blister on his foot which was a hot burn. Tariq couldn’t sense it at night because of neuropathy,” said his doctor.

Unaware of the suffering he would cause himself, Tariq delayed seeking medical attention for a week. “He had treated it with ointments and received a foot dressing from a nearby pharmacy. When the two weeks passed with no healing, he started to get pus discharge from the sore spot,” said his doctor.

Panicked by a festering wound, he rushed to the hospital. “We admitted him right away. We examined his foot, which was in terrible condition. His foot bones were also affected since his condition was so severe. For a week, we gave him antibiotics before making a decision,” said his doctor.

 After his examination, the doctors evaluated the situation and decided to amputate his foot. “The infection could have spread to other parts of the body if we hadn’t amputated the foot,” said his doctor.

Senior Endocrinologist at Sher-I- Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Dr. Shariq Masoodi told The Kashmir Monitor that diabetic foot is a serious problem that requires time to heal and can result in amputation for those who do not receive the necessary care.

“It occurs in people who have had diabetes for a very long period and are unable to control their blood sugar levels. Because the diabetic foot damages the nerves in the foot, the patient loses feeling in the foot even when stung by thorns,” he said.

Senior Consultant in the Department of Endocrinology at Super Speciality Hospital, Shireenbagh, Dr. Shahnawaz told the Kashmir Monitor that diabetic foot is one of the common complications which is the leading cause of lower limb amputations.

“It is a preventable disease if one takes control of their blood sugar level. More duration of diabetes in a person leads to more complications and the risk of diabetic foot is one of them,” he said.

He also mentioned that as the lifestyle has been changed diabetes is not a concern for old people only, the cases are also seen in youngsters and if a healthy lifestyle is not maintained it can lead to major complications. “Every diabetic patient has a 25% chance of getting diabetic foot throughout his life,” he said.

He recommended people wash and dry their feet every day and use moisturizer because dry skin is a common occurrence in diabetic patients, and these cracks can easily lead to infection.

Dr. Shariq said that in diabetic foot the treatment options are very limited. “One kind of treatment to stop the illness from spreading is amputation. During this procedure, the patient survives but unfortunately loses a portion of his body,” he said.

He advised people not to wait for the complication to occur, better is to prevent it. “Check your feet every day and monitor your blood sugar levels. Check for corns and blisters. As per your doctor’s advice, keep a check on blood sugar levels. Never overlook a small detail. Refrain from cutting corns or popping blisters by yourself. Seek appropriate medical advice for everything. Do not cut the nails deeply,” he said.

Although there hasn’t been a recent study to determine the incidence of diabetic foot in Kashmir, some medical professionals believe that the number of instances of diabetic foot has somewhat increased in the post-COVID period.  

”At our hospital, we used to see five to six cases of dibetic foot, but with COVID, there has seemed to be an increase in the number of cases. Orthopedics is referring many diabetic foot cases to us. Approximately two to three cases occur each month. ,” says Dr. Shoib, Senior resident (DrNB) Endocrinology department, Superspeciality hospital, Shireen bagh.

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Minzah Mehraj

Minzah Mehraj is a journalist based in Srinagar, Kashmir, and has covered health, education, business, and culture stories over the past 3 years. She holds a Masters and Honours Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication.

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