Diabetes-Related Amputations Create Increase For Prosthetics - 8 News NOW

Paula Francis, Anchor

Diabetes-Related Amputations Create Increase For Prosthetics

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Rob Burris said, "Every single one is custom made. Everybody's different as far as how much pressure than can take and how their limb can take the pressure once their surgery is healed up." Rob Burris said, "Every single one is custom made. Everybody's different as far as how much pressure than can take and how their limb can take the pressure once their surgery is healed up."
Dave Garcia must now learn to walk on artificial legs. His physical therapist at Health South, Robin Lang is helping Garcia regain a sense of balance. Dave Garcia must now learn to walk on artificial legs. His physical therapist at Health South, Robin Lang is helping Garcia regain a sense of balance.

You might think the war in Iraq has created more demand for artificial limbs, and it has. But actually, diabetes-related amputations account for a much larger increase.

In this week's Dealing With Diabetes report, the Eye on Health team hears from a local prosthetic maker and from a man whose life was drastically changed by diabetes.

Las Vegas resident Dave Garcia was diagnosed with diabetes in 1995. He says that over the coming years he didn't manage his diabetes as well has he should have.

"I didn't know the diabetes was attacking me, because you don't feel it," he said.

Garcia is also a former smoker, which can contribute to problems with circulation. He gradually began to lose feeling in his legs because of poor circulation. That's how a sore on his foot went unnoticed until the infection was out of control. He would eventually lose both legs.

Dave Garcia, a diabetic amputee, said, "If I had cared, I could've saved them. I could have saved both of them."

Rob Burris designs artificial limbs for Hangar Prosthetics in Henderson. His office alone makes around 300 custom-fitted legs every year.

Burris said, "Every single one is custom made. Everybody's different as far as how much pressure than can take and how their limb can take the pressure once their surgery is healed up."

Garcia must now learn to walk on artificial legs. His physical therapist at Health South, Robin Lang is helping Garcia regain a sense of balance.

Each year in the U.S., there are more than 80,000 lower-limb amputations on diabetics. Burris says that while there are many causes for a person to lose a limb, it's diabetes that may eventually lead to a nationwide shortage of prostheses.

"Diabetes is what has formed this industry and keeps it afloat. If you look at all the numbers, from accidents, or illness, or cancer, they are nothing compared to the number people that lose them because of diabetes-related causes."

Diabetics who smoke or have high cholesterol are at greater risk for losing a limb.

Insurance coverage for prosthetics varies. Some plans, for example, pay $5,000. That could leave a balance-owed of $20,000 to $40,000 or more.

E-mail your comments to Anchor Paula Francis.

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