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Skin Changes Identify Diabetes Early, Prevent Amputations

More than 80,000 Americans lose their lower leg to amputation annually, one of the more terrible risks of diabetes, an epidemic running side-by-side with obesity. Researchers have discovered tell-tale signs of diabetes, based on the oxygenation of a patient's skin that may predict the development of ulcerations and push doctors to treat patients earlier, before a limb must be removed.

The problem stems from peripheral neuropathy, a condition in which a patient's uncontrolled high blood sugar damages the nerves of his or her legs and feet, decreasing physical sensitivity. Even small foot problems caused by a bad shoe, researchers say, can escalate into chronic wounds that won't heal, forcing an amputation.

Scientists compared the health of more than 100 patients, about half of whom suffered from diabetes and peripheral neuropathy. Patients who had both conditions (as well as diabetes alone) had lesser amounts of oxygen in their skin, a sign of oncoming problems.

Foot problems are common reasons diabetics are hospitalized, and very preventable, if you normalize your blood sugar by taking two very important steps:

EurekAlert November 11, 2005

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