November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and while it is important for everyone to be knowledgeable about this increasingly common condition, Hispanics are disproportionately affected by diabetes. It is therefore important that Hispanics, as well as other high-risk groups, keep up to date with the latest diabetes statistics and innovations, particularly regarding unregulated diabetes.
“Hispanics in the United States have some of the highest diabetes numbers, and this is increasingly becoming more mainstream information” Caroline Sharpe, a Registered Nurse with Lourdes Hospital in New York, told Saludify. “That being said, even though Hispanics know they are in a high risk group, they don’t often know all the options available or what to do after a diabetes diagnosis.”
Sharpe indicated she sees a number of Hispanic patients through the emergency service at Lourdes Hospital who have unregulated diabetes and are suffering the consequences of it. Oftentimes, said Sharpe, she will ask a Hispanic patient about their condition and they have very little to say about it.
“It’s something many people, not just Hispanics, think they can live with, likely because the symptoms can be mild at first or not bothersome enough for patients to feel it is necessary to treat. They don’t think about the long term consequences.”
What are the repercussions of unregulated diabetes?
Diabetes consists primarily of two different metabolic abnormalities within the body, though a handful of conditions can be classified under this umbrella term.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the most common conditions seen, though type 1 diabetes, where the body does not produce insulin at all, only accounts for approximately 10 percent of all diabetes cases.
Type 2 diabetes is far more common, and this condition, according to Medical News Today, occurs when there is not enough insulin in the body or the cells have become resistant. When individuals speak of unregulated diabetes, they are most commonly referring to type 2 diabetes.
“There are some very serious medical complications as a result of unregulated blood sugar,” Sharpe told Saludify. “It’s much more than dizzy spells, disorientation and nausea. Unregulated blood sugar can cause dangerous health issues, and more than 200,000 people die from these complications annually.”
Unregulated blood sugar can result in:
- Cardiovascular disease as the result of damaged blood vessels from high blood sugar causing the destruction of the blood vessel lining called the endothelium. Cardiovascular diseases directly related to unregulated diabetes include stroke, hardening of the arteries and blockages of the vessels around the heart referred to as heart disease.
- Kidney disease, another result of damaged blood vessels, can restrict how well the kidneys filter urine, according to Smart Living, causing protein to be released into the bladder. Blockages can also form in the kidney vessels and cause tissue damage and tissue death.
- Retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels within the eye weaken as a result of unregulated diabetes, causing fluid to leak into the eyes. This can blur vision, create scar tissue and even cause the retina in the eye to detach.
- Neuropathy is the result of nerve damage within the body. Chronic high blood sugar can inflammation and oxygen deprivation, both of which can result in nerve death. Nerve damage brings with it a number of other issues including muscle weakness, loss of sensation, digestive problems like diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, dizziness or fainting from poorly controlled blood pressure, and impotence.
“For Hispanic patients, or any patient with a language or access to care barrier, it is so important for medical staff to talk about the complications of diabetes every time that patient is seen, even if it has already been mentioned a thousand times,” said Sharpe.
“By the time some people become concerned about their illness, it is already too late, and they have lost vision or have had a limb amputated.”
Sharpe encourages both patients and doctors to increase their educational efforts during National Diabetes Awareness Month in the hopes that an increase in awareness can become the new standard of care for those in need.
Diabetes currently are 1.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, according to the Office of Minority Health, and are 1.5 times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes. In 2008, the time from which the most recent data is available, Hispanics were 1.6 times as likely to start treatment for end-stage renal disease related to diabetes, compared to non-Hispanic whites.