Some 90 people a month have a foot amputated due to diabetes in the Saudi capital, a doctor told AFP on Monday, expressing concern about the high levels of the condition in the oil-rich kingdom.
The number of diabetes-linked amputations is rising quickly and beginning to occur at younger and younger ages, said Dr Abdulaziz al-Gannass, foot and ankle surgeon at the National Guard King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh.
"We have three cases every day of amputated feet due to diabetes in Riyadh," Gannass told AFP, adding that he could not provide a figure for such cases across the vast desert kingdom.
"It is the number two reason for admission (to hospitals) in the kingdom after trauma," he said.
Gannass called the level of diabetes in the country "shocking", attributing it to poor diet and high sugar consumption, lack of exercise and smoking, and said one of the worst complications, diabetic foot, is on the rise.
Diabetes occurs when a person cannot convert sugar, starches and other foods into energy due to a lack of insulin or because the conversion process is not working properly.
Diabetic foot, involving lack of feeling, ulcers which do not heal, bone softening, gangrene and other complications, results from nerve damage and constricted blood flow in the foot caused by diabetes.
The worst cases lead to amputations, after which the patient has on average only a five-year lifespan, Gannass said.
Some 25-27 percent of all people in the country have diabetes, according to government figures.
"This number is really high. In every house, there is a mother or father or son that has diabetes," he said.
Gannass said that younger and younger patients are being forced to have diabetes-linked amputations.
"We used to see the age from 45 to 60. This year we started to see it from 30. I was shocked to see them in the emergency room," he said.
He said that the amputations are taking up a growing number of hospital beds in the kingdom that could be used for other treatments as patients need to to be kept in hospital for about six weeks after surgery before going home.