Limb Loss: Signs, Symptoms and Steps to Prevent Amputation - Peripheral Vascular Associates
Limb Loss: Signs, Symptoms and Steps to Prevent Amputation - Peripheral Vascular Associates

Limb Loss: Signs, Symptoms and Steps to Prevent Amputation


April is designated as Limb Loss Awareness Month and understanding the causes and the signs and symptoms are important in doing your part to prevent amputation.  Did you know that of the 1.6 million Americans with limb loss, 54% were due to vascular conditions including Peripheral Artery Disease (P.A.D.) and diabetes?  Did you also know that 60% of vascular-related amputations are preventable?

Here is how each of these vascular diseases affects circulation throughout the body and could put your limbs in danger of amputation, if not treated.

Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral Artery Disease is a common circulatory condition in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs. This occurs when plaque builds up in the artery walls and reduces or stops the blood from flowing. Plaque is a sticky substance of cholesterol, calcium and fibrous tissue that causes arteries to become narrow and stiff, a process called atherosclerosis—also known as hardening of the arteries. P.A.D. often presents as severe leg pain, slow-healing wounds and cold lower limbs. Left untreated, it can lead to amputation.


Diabetes can play a role in causing poor circulation in certain areas of your body including the feet. Diabetic patients will often complain of cramping in their legs, as well as pain in their calves, thighs, or buttocks, especially during times of activity. Sometimes diabetics have a difficult time detecting the signs of poor circulation, which again if left untreated, can lead to amputation.

Signs and Symptoms

Here are the most common signs and symptoms that can lead to limb loss, if not treated in a timely manner.

  1. Pain or numbness in the leg or foot
  2. Slow or non-healing sores or wounds
  3. Gangrene
  4. Shiny, smooth, dry skin on the leg and foot
  5. Thickening of toenails or nails
  6. Absent or weakened pulse in the leg
  7. An infection that won’t heal.

What can you do to prevent P.A.D and improve circulation in your legs?  In addition to following your doctor’s advice, you can make lifestyle changes that will greatly reduce your risk. Smoking cessation not only improves blood circulation but also prevents a host of other diseases. Regular exercise — at least 30 minutes a day — will help tremendously. Eating a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables is also important for good health and helps the body function normally.

Amputation should be a very last resort, if considered at all.  At PVA, our approach to amputation prevention means your treatment plan will be customized for your unique condition and lifestyle with careful consideration given to your overall health.

However, if preventative measures are not successful and a doctor determines you are a candidate for amputation, you are not alone. Limb loss is not the life-limiting decision it once was, in large part due to the sophisticated technology available. If you or someone you love is new to limb loss, PVA Prosthetics is here to help. Additionally, the Amputee Coalition and The Prosthetic Foundation are supportive resources for amputees and their family.

To learn more about vascular disease and amputation, amputation prevention and the various treatment options available at PVA, visit

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