MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new study shows diabetes is skyrocketing around the world. Researchers say cases have quadrupled in the past three decades. The study in The Lancet finds 422 million adults have diabetes worldwide.

Researchers found low and middle-income countries experienced the biggest jumps in diabetes and that it’s more common among men. Obesity is a main risk factor.

Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States, killing about 70,000 Americans a year. Hennepin County Medical Center is offering hope with a new way of treating diabetes patients that could prevent an amputation.

Ed Davis has photographed the world, leading a life of adventure and, as his son describes it, an addiction to tootsie rolls. But times haven’t been so sweet as of late — last month he had all his toes amputated off his left foot.

“I never see him curse his luck or ‘Woe is me,’ or ‘Poor me,'” his son Franz said. “It’s always, ‘How do we work with what we have and move forward?”

Davis’s pioneering attitude landed him in the hyperbaric medicine area of HCMC. He has regular treatments in a chamber where it feels like he’s 45 feet under water.

“We’re able to get their oxygen levels up ten times higher than you can under normal circumstances,” Dr. Tom Masters of HCMC said.

Davis is also enjoying some unique technology. A dye injection flows through his legs, and in the dark a camera shows where blood is flowing, and which parts can heal or which need amputation. Before they used this technology, doctors just had to make an educated guess on what needed to go.

“This equips us to have better outcomes for our patients,” Dr. Masters said. “What we’re trying to do is save as much as their legs as we can. Worst case scenario for these patients — they end up with a debilitating amputation that leaves them wheelchair-bound and dependent on other people.”

Davis hopes he and his fellow patients can stay ahead of the disease’s progression.

“To be able to carry on normally, to ease the pain of the problem,” he said.

Davis says his big goal moving forward is to save the rest of his foot.

If you want to find out about the treatment, call the HCMC Hyperbaric Medicine Center, or visit them online.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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