Discovery That Could Prevent Limb Loss - Diabetes Sufferers to Benefit From Ground-Breaking Research
3 April 2006
Diabetes sufferers have been given new hope in a groundbreaking study that has found causes of a condition that can lead to lower limb loss.
The Action Medical Research study has found a link between oxygen deficiency in skin tissue and the formation of leg ulcers in people with a circulatory problem known as peripheral vascular disease. Diabetes sufferers are particularly susceptible to developing this condition.
This is the first time that researchers have looked at the changes occurring in the skin before the ulcers actually develop.
The findings provide a new understanding about how a poor blood supply results in the formation of abnormal collagen; the substance that gives skin its strength, and how this can lead to extremely painful and disabling leg ulcers.
For people suffering from type 2, or ‘adult onset’ diabetes, this is of particular concern.
This is the form of the disease that can usually be treated by diet, however many people are unaware they have the disease and unknowingly continue with their lives without changing their eating or exercise habits.
This can mean that high blood glucose levels, high blood pressure, lack of fitness and weight problems are not addressed, potentially causing damage to the circulatory system.
For some people this can lead to leg ulcers that simply will not heal – sadly meaning, in extreme cases, that the only solution is limb amputation.
With the numbers of type 2 diabetes patients steadily increasing and younger patients now being affected, this research is good news for all those with the disease.
Dr John Tarlton, who is based at the University of Bristol, found the link in his research with Southmead Hospital in Bristol.
He said, “The annual cost to the NHS for treating leg ulcers is believed to be as much as £600 million.
“They are incredibly painful and distressing for the sufferer, particularly when failure to heal can mean amputation.
“The results of our study have opened up new avenues that previously no-one knew existed and the ramifications are far reaching in terms of finding clinical treatments to save peoples’ limbs.
“In essence, the poor blood supply results in a higher turnover of connective tissue but this is weaker and less stable, so the skin just does not have the strength of healthy skin and can break down.
“We believe that the principles of this research may be applied to other disorders where the tissues are affected by oxygen deficiency such as ischaemic heart disease and also the repair of other, naturally oxygen deficient, connective tissues for example, cartilage, tendon and intervertebral disc.
“More investigations are needed to understand how widespread this problem is, but hopefully this breakthrough will mean that we can start looking to ways to improving the quality of a great many peoples’ lives.”
Andy Proctor of Action Medical Research said, “We are incredibly proud to be behind Dr Tarlton’s work – which looks to have been a tremendous turning point for many different diseases.
“It seems that this study has opened up a whole new area of research and it is looking very promising indeed.
“Understanding the mechanism behind the ulcers means that, finally, clinical care may be directed at the causes rather than the alleviation of the symptoms.
“Ultimately this will lead to a greater quality of life for the many thousands of sufferers every year.”
Your donation could help fund vital research for children