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Amputation complications: The risks of living with amputations

Amputations are not something to be taken lightly. Sometimes, they occur because of accidents leading to severing, and other times they're a result of a medical emergency that leaves no other choice.

In any respect, an amputation is life changing. It could change what you're capable of doing each day and cause pain and frustration. Even following the primary healing period, there are some complications that could affect you as well.

Amputations and lasting consequences through long-term complications

Some long-term complications a person might have from an amputation include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain
  • Infection
  • Edema
  • Autonomic dysfunction
  • Scarring

Of course, there are others as well.

Each of these arises from different issues. For instance, edema, which is swelling due to water retention, may occur because of the trauma to the limb as well as to the way the tissues were handled while the person was in surgery. Since the limb has been altered, there is also an imbalance in how fluids flow from one place to another, disrupting normal circulation.

Another possible issue could be infection. While infections most commonly happen when the injury is first healing, infection can happen at any time from problems from prosthetic fittings leading to sores to injuries you don't sense because of nerve damage. You're at a higher likelihood of trouble from infection if you smoke, have diabetes or are older at the time of the amputation.

Along with infection, necrosis is possible if dead tissues are allowed to remain within the body following the amputation. Blisters on the skin may also become infected. They're caused by irritation to the wound, allergic reactions to dressings and other issues.

Along with these complications is a high risk of pain. While some amputations lead to complete nerve death and numbness, many lead to nerve damage and pain. Post-amputation pain is typical, though residual pain and phantom limb sensations can also occur. Phantom limb pain and sensations make you feel as if the limb is still present and hurting even though it's not physically possible. Interestingly, since phantom pain is neurological in nature, some physicians and therapists use mirrors to "trick" the brain into relieving pain through treatments to the opposite side of the body.

Amputations have many possible lasting consequences, but good therapy and treatment makes a difference. The right help can get you back into a position where you can enjoy your life and normal activities.

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