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Winter Warning: Diabetes & Prediabetes Increase Frostbite Risk

Frostbite Risk
Photo: WikiPedia Common

With much of the U.S. in the grip of harsh winter weather as December 2017 comes to a close, we’re revisiting a post we originally published in 2013 about diabetic complications and frostbite, and how having diabetes or prediabetes can increase the risk of frostbite. The risk was dramatically illustrated by the experience of British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who had to pull out of a grueling expedition to cross Antarctica due to the effects of frostbite. We wish all our readers a healthy, safe, and warm new year!

Frostbite Risk
Photo: Mayo Foundation

Diabetes, and more specifically, diabetic complications such as neuropathy and poor circulation, made headline news when the 68-year old British explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, had to pull out of a grueling expedition to cross Antarctica.

An earlier medical check-up before the journey, had indicated that the noted explorer, “was on the verge… of type 2 diabetes” according to an interview with BBC News in Cape Town, SA. Although the explorer’s theory that a recent deterioration in circulation caused by diabetes may have led to severe frostbite and the subsequent potentially permanent loss of the use of his left hand has not yet been confirmed, there are lessons to be learned from Sir Ranulph’s near disaster.

The explorer described the moment he realised that five years of meticulous preparation for a staggeringly dangerous journey had just ended for him.

He was skiing alone, just over two hours from his colleagues, on a flat but rutted track in a white-out – meaning zero-visibility – and testing some new equipment, when he noticed the snow had loosened the bindings on his skis and “one was slipping all over the damned place.

“I had to tighten them up. I tried with the outer gloves and couldn’t do it. I had to take the [outer and] inner gloves off – no alternative – and use my hands. But that’s OK. Minus 30 or warmer – that’s the norm.”

It took less than 20 minutes for him to secure the bindings, but then “I suddenly realised that one of [my hands] had gone… the other one which also had the mitts off was perfectly alright.

“Once you see that it’s like wood when you tap the skis I knew that I was in trouble and would have to get back.”

With his left hand useless, he struggled slowly back to his team-mates in their vehicles, already aware that “the situation had suddenly, unexpectedly and with a high degree of frustration reached a situation where that hand wasn’t going to be any good for -40C let along -80”.

Originally published at Diabetesincontrol.com

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