The Dangers of Type 2 Diabetes among Older Hispanics

Photo Credit: Pixabay
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Diabetes is a 5th leading cause of death among Hispanics and Latinos in the USA. Hispanics are 66 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared to non-Hispanic whites and they have a 1.4 times greater risk of developing chronic kidney disease due to diabetes, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Moreover, there is currently an epidemic of diabetes among Hispanics and Latinos not only in the United States but also in Central America.

The Dangers of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes carries a number of dangers. While it may be easy to ignore, the disease affects the blood vessels, nerves, heart, kidneys and eyes. Complications of diabetes can eventually become life-threatening or disabling regardless of race. In fact, several studies have found that Hispanics and Latinos are at a greater risk of two of the most serious risks of diabetes: end-stage renal disease and foot amputation. Most cases of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) are caused by diabetes and these cases are on the rise throughout Central and South America, according to a study published in the Clinical Kidney Journal. The study reported that the highest incidence of diabetes-caused ESRD was found in Mexico and Colombia.

Research has found that Hispanics and Latinos are also at a higher risk of foot damage due to diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. Diabetes can lead to nerve damage in the feet and poor blood flow which raises the risk of a host of foot complications. In severe cases, toe, foot, or even leg amputation may be necessary. Diabetes is the leading cause of foot and leg amputations in the United States and Mexico. Between 2001 and 2004, the hospitalization rate for diabetes-related amputation among Hispanics and Latinos increased to 80 per 100,000 compared to roughly 28-31 per 100,000 for non-Hispanic whites.

Diabetics in developing countries are twice as likely to develop foot ulcers and require amputation than those in developed countries. In South and Central America, about 1.25 million diabetics undergo foot amputation. This number is expected to rise to 2.5 million by 2030, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

A great deal of the disparity is attributed to lack of health care and screening. Just 38 percent of adult Hispanics over the age of 40 with diabetes received the recommended annual foot, eye and blood sugar screenings compared to 47 percent for whites and blacks in the U.S. Hispanics were also 3.6 times more likely than non-Hispanic whites to be hospitalized for uncontrolled diabetes and 2.9 times more likely to be hospitalized for foot or leg amputation due to diabetes.

Controlling Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes can develop at any age but it is most often diagnosed in middle-aged and older people. Screening for type 2 diabetes is especially important after the age of 40. Therefore, it is important to note that while diabetes complications can be very serious, they are avoidable. The best way to avoid serious foot problems, including gangrene and amputation, is by receiving regular diabetic foot care and maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. Seeking the care of a knowledgeable foot and ankle doctor should also be top priority for all diabetic patients to avoid potentially life-threatening complications that may seem benign at first.

Parul Patel, DPM is the lead physician of Infinity Foot and Ankle, a podiatry practice with three locations in Texas. She has more than 11 years of experience in podiatric medicine and specializes in podiatric care such as diabetic podiatry, preventative care and surgical podiatry.

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