The Black Amputation Epidemic: Why Blacks are Losing Limbs 3 Times More Than Others


Amputations are somewhat common in the United States. The cause for an amputation may include circulatory disorders, infections, accidents, cancer or a congenital malformation of the limbs. What’s not common is the rate the African Americans are having this procedure take place, especially due to uncontrolled diabetes.

Uncontrolled diabetes can have a number of harmful effects to your body: Without enough insulin, or when your cells can’t use it properly, sugar courses through your bloodstream. Plaque builds up faster in your vessels’ walls, slowing the blood moving to your eyes and ankles and toes. Blindness can follow, or dead tissue. Many can’t feel the pain of blood-starved limbs; the condition destroys nerves. If arteries close in the neck, it can cause a stroke. If they close in the heart, a heart attack. And if they close in the legs, gangrene.

Despite the great scientific strides in diabetes care, the rate of amputations across the country grew by 50% between 2009 and 2015. Diabetics undergo 130,000 amputations each year, often in low-income and underinsured neighborhoods. Black patients lose limbs at a rate triple that of others.