Observation From A VA Doc

Walking into the front entrance of the VA hospital, you see an awful lot of former soldiers getting about in wheelchairs and with canes because they’re missing toes, feet, or entire legs.

That is not a new thing. The cliche depiction of a veteran is a man in a wheelchair, missing one of his legs up to the knee after having stepped on a landmine or something while defending the freedom of his country.

What’s new is that these days, it’s far, FAR more likely that these vets lost their limbs to uncontrolled diabetes.

Now, I trend toward (practical) pacifism…but I have to say, this just horrifies me. Surviving a war intact just to be dismembered by a preventable/controllable disease?!

Awful. Just awful.

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Published in: on December 27, 2011 at 4:39 am  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. thats pretty sad

  2. How sad, especially since it is preventable. Is the VA making plans to do more preventative education? Are “we the people” funding the diabetes meds anything like adequately?

    • The VA has an exemplary system for all kinds of preventative programs, and if someone is 100% service-connected, they don’t pay a dime for any of their medications. Would that the rest of the country had access to those resources! (But hey. That would be socialism.) ( ::bites tongue to prevent rant:: )

      The problem is what the problem always is. At the end of the day, you can’t force people to take their medications or watch their diet. You can only strongly suggest that they do.

      I am quite used to being ignored when I say things.

  3. I’m happy that you updated but this post is rasther sad. A few question and comments

    Wait diabetes can cause limb loss? I think I knew that but it’s a bit suprising. Care explaining how?

    Why would veterans be more likelu to lose limbs from diabetes than non veterans? Or do people just assume that they’re verteran?

    I think there was something else…. thanks for updating!

    ~Marina

    • Yup, diabetes can cause limb loss. And blindness. And kidney failure.

      How does it cause limb loss? A combination of factors. First of all, it basically kills the sensory nerves that send information about the sense of touch. It starts at the tips of the longest nerves (which turn out to be the ones to the legs), and works its way in. So people can lose the sensation in their feet after a while. That means that if they stub their toe or get a blister or something, they won’t feel it. THEN, as if that weren’t bad enough, diabetes makes it very difficult for your body to heal a wound. So if you DO get a blister, instead of healing, it gets worse and worse. It can turn into an ulcer, or gangrene. If it happens on your toe, and it won’t heal on its own, you have to get a doctor to remove the toe. I once had to talk a man into letting a surgeon cut off his entire leg, because he had a diabetic ulcer that turned gangrenous…his leg was basically rotting off, and it was endangering his life because the infection in his leg could travel to the rest of his body and put him into septic shock.

      There’s nothing about veterans that makes them more likely than the rest of the population to lose limbs to diabetes. I just thought it was interesting, because in bygone days, you’d usually assume a veteran lost a leg by stepping on a landmine or something. But nope. They just didn’t watch their diet and take their medications properly. ::sigh::

      Thanks for writing!

      Dr. G

      • That’s interesting. Thanks for responding!

        I know… when you see a veteran missing a leg you’re always “Thanks them for their service to this county and that they gave up their limbs to keep us safe…” but really it’s diabtetes. Not that they shouldn’t be honored and thanked it’s just interesting.

        I knew that diabetes caused kidney failure but blindness? Hm… would it have anything to do with the killing of sensory nerves? If they’re killed in the eye it can’t see….. Maybe?

        That’s slightly gross I have to say. But if they do get their feet all numbed up and can’t feel it then why do they still walk? It seems rather dangerous to walk when you can’t even feel your feet…

        Is there a specific reason why it’s harder to heal a wound with diabetes?

        Wait, so how can you prevent it? If you put on antibotic cream and the like would it not happen? The real problem is they can’t feel it I’m guessing…

        What’s “septic shock”? I’m guessing…. when the rotting-ness of a wound is so great that it puts your body into shock because of all the bad stuff…. or not. I don’t know.

        Thank you for responding to my question!!!!

        P.S Have you ever thought about doing a post about why blood shows up in UV?

        Thanks!!!

  4. I love this blog! These posts are always so interesting, and this one is really sad.
    I couldn’t find a place on your site where one could ask specific questions, but I have one. I’m looking for information about muteness, and what could cause it. In particular, I was wondering if being in a fire, breathing the super heated air, or the flames themselves could burn the throat, and cause someone to not be able to speak anymore. I can’t find anything in my (admittedly dubious) internet research, but I was wondering if you’d ever heard of anything like that? Thank you for your help, and for this awesome blog! It’s already been helpful in my writing in the past, so I look forward to more 🙂
    Ari


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