DIABETES patient Ann Lillie is urging people not to ignore the disease after a study revealed amputation rates in Sunderland are among the highest in the country.
A report in the journal Diabetologia compared lower-leg amputation rates across 151 primary care trusts over three years.
In Sunderland, major amputation (above the ankle) in diabetes patients was 1.52 per 1,000, with the total amputation rate standing at 2.45.
The average major amputation rate per year in England was 0.99 per 1,000 in people with diabetes.
Ann Lillie, 61, from Seaburn, has suffered from diabetes from 14 years and thinks one of the problems could be Sunderland’s link with obesity.
“I think that a lot of it comes from obesity which is out of control in Sunderland, especially in the young,” said Ann, who is chairwoman of Sunderland Diabetic Support Group.
“It is a massive problem Sunderland has to deal with, but the problem is that people just do not want to talk about it. They see it as a disease that you have to steer clear of talking about it,” added Ann.
“A lot of people won’t accept it and that is where problems can stem from. By the time they do go to the doctors it has been in their system for a while and the damage has been done.”
There are about 6,000 diabetes-related amputations across England every year. The report suggests the most important reason for variation in amputation rates is a lack of integrated foot care for people with diabetes.
But Ann thinks diabetes can be tackled with education at an early age.
“Young children should be taught about diet and exercise to avoid diabetes,” she said.
James Reuben is secretary for Sunderland Diabetic Support Group and deals with people with diabetes every day.
James, 69, from Lakeside, said: “We know there are 20,000 people with diabetes in this area.
“People sometimes don’t even realise they have got it. It needs to be carefully looked at because people can very easily lose their leg.”
The effects of an amputation can be devastating, said James.
“The trauma of having a leg off can kill people. One of the men I knew, who had an amputation, his life span just seemed to diminish after that. It’s such a shock to the body, it can’t handle it.”