The serious complications of diabetes are increasing in frequency among Native Americans. Of major concern are increasing rates of kidney failure, amputations and blindness.
Ten to twenty one percent of all people with diabetes develop kidney disease. In 1995, 27,900 people initiated treatment for end stage renal disease (kidney failure) because of diabetes. Among people with diabetes the rate is 6 times higher among Native Americans.
Diabetes is the most frequent cause of non-traumatic lower limb amputations. The risk of a leg amputation is 15-40 times greater for a person with diabetes. Each year 54,000 people lose their foot or leg to diabetes. Amputations rates among Native Americans are 3-4 times higher than the general population.
Diabetic Retinopathy is a term used for all abnormalities of the small blood vessels of the retina caused by diabetes, such as weakening of blood vessel walls or leakage from blood vessels. Diabetic retinopathy occurs in 18% of 24.4% of Oklahoma Indians.
What is needed?
In ideal circumstances, Native Americans with diabetes will have their disease under good control and be monitored frequently by a health care team knowledgeable in the care of diabetes.
Patient education is critical! People with diabetes can reduce their risk for complications if they are educated about their disease, learn and practice the skills to better control their blood glucose levels and receive regular checkups from their health care team.