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Studies show rise in amputations among diabetic patients since pandemic began

One study showed that in 2019, 18-percent of patients came in for major amputation versus a whopping 42-percent this year.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A couple of recent studies show the effects of the pandemic on the healthcare of diabetic patients and the news is not good. It has prompted experts to remind those with diabetes about just how important preventative care is.

Serei Lee is a doctor of podiatry who moved here from Los Angeles back in 2007. His goal -- to try and save more diabetics from having to have an amputation.

"At that time it is said that Corpus Christi and the Valley were number one and number two as having the highest rate of amputation in the country, so my specialty involves saving limbs," Lee said.

When shown two studies that were published in Podiatry Today, he wasn't too surprised by the findings. The researchers discovered that diabetes patients were coming in for major amputations at a much higher rate than they were before the coronavirus pandemic began. One study showed that in 2019, 18-percent of patients came in for major amputation versus a whopping 42-percent this year.

Dr. Lee said he was also seeing an increase here in patients who waited too long to see a doctor because of the pandemic.

"If they couldn't come see me at the same time they go to the ER and that's when they would call me at Christus Spohn Shoreline, and that's when I come in. My volume in the office, it's obviously dropped, but I get a lot of consults because of the reasons we mentioned," Lee said. "Yes sir, a lot of a diabetic ulcers complications that they couldn't be managed in outpatient setting due to various reasons to not be able to see a specialist."

Research scientists also noted a higher degree of tissue loss in pandemic patients than pre-pandemic. Up to 59-percent more from last year. The doctor again believes the delay in treatment would lead to more complications.

"A healthy population, they have a cut, keep it clean, just use over-the-counter ointment and they'll do fine," Lee said. "But you throw in different complications, you have an open hole for a couple of months, for a couple of weeks, and slowly it deteriorated, not healing but it went through different stages of infection and that's when they come to me or go to the local hospital."

Lee said people should use these research findings as a warning -- one that should have folks following up with their primary care physician or with their wound care doctor so if a problem does develop, it can be caught early before amputation is the only option.

For the latest updates on coronavirus in the Coastal Bend, click here.

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