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Diabetic Foot Amputations

Complications with the feet can turn diabetes into a miserable disease. If left untreated, amputation of toes or a foot, even legs, can become necessary.

In 1994 there were 67,000 diabetes-related amputations. In 1996, just two years later, that number shot up to 86,000, nearly a 30 percent increase. Reasons include poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Hispanics and blacks are twice as likely to get diabetes than whites.

CBS 2's Paul Moniz reports that the Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City treats the problem, boasting a new center that specializes in the diabetic foot.

Diabetes has already cost Johnny Munoz nine of his 10 toes, amputated because of infections that began as foot ulcers.

"I didn't feel it," Johnny says. "I would go out and walk on it, on ulcerated feet, and the problem got worse and worse."

Ulcers are common in diabetics and often not treated in time: many diabetics, Johnny included, are overweight and have difficulty inspecting their feet.

Dr. Peter Sheehan, who works at the Hospital for Joint Diseases, scrapes away a callus on Johnny's foot that could lead to an ulcer and ultimately gangrene.

"The reason someone with diabetes gets a foot ulcer is that they have nerve damage and they have high pressure under the foot. Because they can't feel the injury it leads to ulceration."

Fearful of losing his legs to gangrene, 60-year-old Johnny turned to the new diabetic foot center at Manhattan's Hospital for Joint Diseases.

Dr. Sheehan fitted Johnny with orthopedic shoes and foam inserts to help prevent more ulcers, which can have dire consequences.

Johnny spends most of his time in a wheelchair. He thinks diabetics ought to know that ignoring your feet can carry a high cost.

Some steps you can take to prevent amputations can be done right at home:

You should inspect your feet every day, using an unbreakable mirror to check the entire surface area.

If you spot a cut or bruise, you should treat it immediately with an antibiotic and get to a doctor if it doesn't go away.

You should also avoid going barefoot even while you're in your house.

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