(CBS) People with diabetes were once very likely to face foot or leg amputations. These days, that fate is not as common. A new report from the CDC revealed a dramatic drop in diabetes-related amputations in the U.S.
The study – published in the Feb. issue of Diabetes Care – looked at trends in diabetes hospitalizations for foot and leg amputations, using national survey data from 1988 to 2008. The study found a 65 percent drop in the rate of lower-extremity amputations from 1996 to 2008.
In 1996, 11 out of every 1,000 adults with diabetes had foot or leg amputations, the CDC found. In 2008, the statistic was down to 4 per 1,000.
Explanations for the drop include improvements in blood sugar control, foot care and diabetes management, and declines in heart disease.
“What jumped out to me was the scale of the improvement,” Dr. John Buse, a University of North Carolina diabetes expert, told the Associated Press.
Still, “diabetes is the leading cause of lower-limb amputations in the United States,” study author Dr. Nilka Rios Burros, an epidemiologist with CDC’s Division of Diabetes Transplantation, said in a written statement. “The significant drop in rates of nontraumatic lower-limb amputations among U.S. adults with diagnosed diabetes is certainly encouraging, but more work is needed to reduce the disparities among certain populations. We must continue to increase awareness of the devastating health complications of diabetes.”
The study found higher rates of foot and leg amputations in diabetic patients 75 years of age and older, in men compared with women, and in blacks compared with whites.
Diabetes can lead to poor circulation and nerve damage in the lower limbs, causing numbness and slow healing of sores and infections. An estimated 25.8 million people, or 8.3 percent of the U.S. population, had diabetes in 2010. The disease, in which sugar builds up in the blood, is the seventh leading cause of death.
The CDC has more on diabetes.