Health

General Health Care

All amputees have differing recovery times, depending on the reason for amputation, level of amputation, unknown factors and possible complications. Leaving hospital and entering rehabilitation is the first major step to recovery.

 

Regardless of the reasons for your limb loss it is important to remember that you are recovering from a traumatic event. The importance of maintaining health and minimising preventable problems is essential.


 

Weight Management

For many amputees weight gain issues can pose a problem due to the reduction of physical activity. Various recreational, sporting and fitness activities and a healthy diet can assist you to stay active and maintain a regular body weight. A healthy body will support your overall condition - mentally, physically and emotionally. However, it is important that you discuss any exercise plans with your physiotherapist before embarking on them. If you have concerns about your weight speak to your medical provider for advice.

 

Residual Limb Care

Maintaining the health of your residual limb/stump is extremely important. Hygiene is paramount to prevent problems.

 

If you use a prosthetic liner it must be washed/cleaned on a daily basis with a mild non fragrant soap or cleaned with a damp cloth and left to dry. Stump socks should also be washed/cleaned daily.

Some amputees experience skin problems and breakdowns on their stump. This could be due to a number of different reasons. If you have any concerns with regard to the maintenance of healthy skin or experience any changes contact your doctor or prosthetist.

Amputees should check the heath of their residual limb on a regular basis and a small hand mirror can be helpful to achieve this. Ingrown hairs can pose a problem for some amputees. It is recommended that you do not shave or wax.

 


It is essential for people living with an amputation to manage the care of their residual limb and practice good hygiene. To assist amputees, Limbs 4 Life has developed two information cards, complete with tips and suggestions to help you to remain healthy and keep you on the go.

 

Stump care and Hygiene information cards can be downloaded by clicking on the links below. If you would like hard copies please contact us and we will arrange to have copies posted to you.

 

Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of lower limb amputation in the world. In Australia up to 3500 people will lose a limb due to diabetes complications each year.

 

 

The cause of amputations in people with diabetes is complex; it results from multiple issues in the feet. These include:

 

  • loss of sensation in the feet from nerve damage - so people are not aware of any damage that has occurred
  • poor circulation in the feet from the effects of diabetes on the arteries and small blood vessels
  • decreased healing ability and increased risk of infections and from damage due to poor fitting shoes or abnormally shaped feet or toes.

When a person with diabetes has had an amputation the risk of further amputations in the affected foot or in the other foot is very high. The risks can extend beyond the feet and people with an amputation are at high risk of other diabetes complications as well.

This is why team care for people with diabetes after an amputation is essential.

Following amputation surgery and after the initial rehabilitation, healing, physiotherapy and education to return to health, then comes the longer term care of the person and working toward gaining control of their diabetes.

It is extremely important that you monitor your heath by checking your foot and residual limb daily (often a mirror is used to do this) remember to report anything out of the ordinary. The earlier any problems are detected, the easier it is to prevent any further complications. You will get to know your podiatrist very well and they will play a vital role in your ongoing foot health.

After an amputation, your team will include your family doctor, rehabilitation consultant, diabetes educator, podiatrist, physiotherapist, prosthetist and your pharmacist. The team may grow to include a dietitian, a psychologist, an occupational therapist ... it can seem overwhelming at times, however, a team approach is the best way forward to manage your long term wellbeing.

Managing diabetes can be quite complex but with systems in place to support your needs, you will learn what to do and will have access to care when you need it. Many complications can be prevented.

Further Information & Resources:

Diabetes Australia
1300 136 588 (Australia wide)
www.diabetesaustralia.com.au

Australian Diabetes Council
www.australiandiabetescouncil.com

Diabetes Counselling Online
www.diabetescounselling.com.au

Foot Care

Following a lower limb amputation, your remaining foot and leg are essential to your mobility and independence. In order to achieve and maintain optimum foot health, you must always be aware of your foot and leg condition, protect it from trauma, practice good self-care and see a Podiatrist for a regular foot assessment.

 

If you are a diabetic or have a vascular condition it is especially important to keep your medical conditions under control and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Poor circulation can delay healing of wounds and can increase the risk of infection.

 



Loss of sensation can affect your response to injury so that minor trauma can lead you to think, “It will be OK” when perhaps it may not. Seek immediate professional advice and treatment. INSPECT and PROTECT your foot. A Podiatrist can assess your foot, diagnose and treat abnormalities and advise on foot care.

 

Australian Podiatry Council
www.apodc.com.au
VIC podiatry association
www.podiatryvic.com.au
SA podiatry association
www.podiatrysa.net.au
NSW/ACT Podiatry Association
www.podiatry.asn.au

TAS Podiatry Association
www.taspod.com
QLD Podiatry
www.podiatryassociationqld.org.au
WA Podiatry
www.podiatrywa.com.au

Phantom Pain

It is quite normal to think that that the limb you have lost is still there - it is a common condition usually referred to as phantom pain/sensation.

Phantom pain/sensation can last a lifetime or subside over time, and most amputees will experience it at least once.

When no pain, and only feeling, is felt it is referred to as phantom sensation. For example you may experience pins and needles in the foot/hand that no longer exists or feel the need to scratch a shinbone that you no longer have.

Phantom pain can range from mild to severe, brief to lengthy in duration, and can be extremely distressing for amputees and their care givers. It can be debilitating and draining. If you do experience episodes of phantom pain, it is best that you discuss these issues with your health care providers so they can assist you with a treatment plan.

There are a number of alternative means for treating phantom pain including: massage, acupuncture, acupressure, hot/cold compresses or a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator) machine and mirror box therapy.

Many universities continue to carry out studies on Phantom Pain in order to understand it further and find more effective ways of managing it.



Always consult with your health care provider before starting a new treatment.

Carers & Families

Carers are people who provide unpaid care and support to family members and friends who have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness or who are frail aged.

 

Carers are an integral part of Australia's health system and are the foundation of our aged, disability, palliative and community care systems.

 

Caring may include help and support in any of the activities of daily life of the person being cared for.  It may include physical and personal care and assistance such as dressing, lifting, showering, feeding or providing transport.

Commonly carers are responsible for the management of medications.  Carers provide emotional, social or financial support.  Caring may also involve helping the person they are caring for to be organised, reminding them to attend appointments and dealing with emergencies.

Australia has about 2.6 million carers or 12% of the population.

For all carer inquiries about information and advice, counselling and support groups, respite, educational and social activities, individual advocacy and the campaign for change contact:

Carers Australia
Phone: 1800 242 636
www.carersaustralia.com.au

Carers ACT
www.carersact.org.au

Carers NT
carersnt.asn.au

Carers NSW
carersnt.asn.au



For information on community aged care and disability services in your area and all respite enquiries contact:
Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre
Phone: 1800 052 222
www9.health.gov.au

 

Counselling & Support

The loss of a limb is a traumatic experience and it not uncommon to experience feelings of sadness, frustration, anxiety, anger or depression. Many amputees report that these feeling diminish over time and particularly as greater levels of independence and physical activity are regained. If you are experiencing any unpleasant emotions remember that you are not alone and there are many individuals, health professionals and organisations available to assist you.


You may want to think about discussing your feelings with supportive family/friends, a spiritual minister, social worker, doctor, counsellor, peer support volunteer or another health care provider. However, if you need urgent support and advice there are a number of free 24 hour counselling services are available around Australia. (see below)


Emotional Effects of Amputation

People who undergo amputation can experience a myriad of emotions. Some common reactions can include sadness, anger, grief, anxiety and depression. The different emotions experienced may not only be due to the physical loss of a limb but also the effects the limb amputation will have on their family life, career, lifestyle and socialisation. Treatment approaches for each of these emotions will most likely be varied. Appropriate counselling and therapy can help with emotional adjustments.
Some amputees may also experience a distortion of body image which can affect sexual drive or intimacy. The appearance of the residual limb may make the individual feel self-conscious about his or her body image. Individuals experiencing this should seek advice from a sexual health counsellor.
Speak to your GP or Rehabilitation Consultant to contact the relevant service to meet your needs. Additionally, speaking to another amputee who has lived with the physical and emotional challenges of limb loss can sometimes be of help. For more information visit our Peer Support section.


Counselling Services

Comprehensive counselling and emergency assistance numbers can be found in the front pages of the telephone book. However, if you need immediate counselling consider contacting one of the following organisations: