FRIDAY, Aug. 6, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Being treated by a podiatrist helps diabetes patients reduce their risk of amputation, research shows.
Podiatrists, also called podiatric physicians, are medical specialists of the foot, ankle and lower leg.
"More than half of all amputations in the U.S. are related to diabetes. Podiatrists are detecting conditions that can lead to amputation. That's just what we do," study co-author Dr. James Wrobel, an associate professor of medicine at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago, said in a university news release.
The study of nearly 29,000 diabetes patients, aged 18 to 64, found that those who had had at least one visit with a podiatrist prior to receiving a foot ulcer diagnosis had a lower risk of amputation and hospitalization (nearly 15 percent and 17 percent, respectively).
The study findings were presented in July at a meeting of the American Podiatric Medical Association in Seattle.
Complications related to diabetes are the leading cause of non-traumatic lower limb amputation in the United States and cost an estimated $3 billion a year, according to the Amputee Coalition of America. An estimated 24 million Americans have diabetes and 86,000 undergo amputations each year, based on information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The American Diabetes Association has more about foot care.