Diabetes behind 28 amputations in Brazil every day

Experts sound the alarm on World Diabetes Day

Published on 14/11/2023 - 11:21 By Daniella Almeida - Brasília

From January through August this year, Brazil’s national health care system SUS recorded 6,982 diabetes-related lower limb amputations (legs and feet)—a daily average of over 28.

Cases have been on the rise year on year, as per data from the Ministry of Health. The number of amputations in 2022 (10,168) was 3.9 percent higher than the total in 2021 (9,781), which represents an average of 27.85 surgeries per day last year in public health care facilities.

According to the Brazilian Diabetes Society (SBD), the disease has become the leading cause of non-traumatic lower limb amputation in the country. Traumatic amputations, in contrast, are those that occur in traffic or work accidents, for instance.

“Today, we see a large number of amputations that are not caused by accidents. The top cause is diabetes, and smoking. We have to fight these problems,” said society head Levimar Araújo, who has type-one diabetes.

Diabetic foot

The society also points out that 13 million people with diabetes have foot ulcers—also known as diabetic feet—which can result in amputations. This peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes leads to a loss of nerve function in the foot, impairing touch and pain sensitivity. This diabetes-related reduction in sensitivity makes it difficult for patients to notice injuries or wounds.

Concerned about this reality, the Brazilian Association of Ankle and Foot Medicine and Surgery (ABTPé) warns of this complication, which can affect patients with both type-one and -two diabetes mellitus. ABTPé head Luiz Carlos Ribeiro Lara sized up the situation.

“Among all its complications, the diabetic foot is considered a serious problem, often with devastating consequences due to ulcers, which can lead to the amputation of fingers, toes, or legs.”

The warning comes on World Diabetes Day, celebrated on November 14. For 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) has chosen the campaign theme Education to Protect the Future, aimed at stressing the need to improve access to quality education regarding the disease.

Prevention

In a statement, the Ministry of Health told Agência Brasil it is developing strategies to prevent the chronic conditions that result from diabetes. Among the efforts listed are nutritional and food monitoring, encouraging the adoption of healthy habits, as well as food guides for the people.

The Ministry of Health also reported it invested more than BRL 870 million in 2023 in teams made up of specialists from different areas of health—including nutrition and physical education—to work in primary care, considered the gateway to public health care services in the country.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Denise Griesinger

Latest news