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Kidney disease, blindness and limb loss: Diabetes is destroying the health of Latinos

Kidney disease, blindness and limb loss: Diabetes is destroying the health of Latinos

Picture of Francisco Castro
[Photo by Agência Brasil Fotografias via Flickr.]

Susana Castro’s arms are deformed, bruised and mangled. At 67, the native of Mexico City has suffered from diabetes since she was 40, an illness that led to a diagnosis of kidney disease 11 years ago. She now requires three hours of dialysis treatment every third day, or else she will die.

Her story is similar to thousands of others. In 2015, there were 30.3 million Americans (9.3 percent of the population) afflicted by the illness, according to the American Diabetes Association.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, 14.7 percent of all new kidney failure patients in 2013 were Hispanics. In fact, Latinos have 1.4 times greater risk of developing kidney failure than non-Hispanics.

Kidney disease is only one of several byproducts of poor health management for those who suffer from diabetes. Blindness and limb loss are also a danger, especially for Hispanics, who often don’t keep diabetes under control, either due to a lack of English skills, habits or other issues.

Blindness is another problem for Hispanics. According to the National Eye Institute, approximately 7.7 million people over 40 have diabetic retinopathy in the United States and they estimate that figure will grow to 11 million by 2030.

Similarly, according to the American Diabetes Association, in 2010, about 73,000 non-traumatic lower-limb amputations were performed in adults age 20 years or older with a diabetes diagnosis. About 60 percent of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations among people age 20 years or older occur in people with a diabetes diagnosis.

Also, there are nearly 2 million people living with limb loss in the United States. The main causes of this are vascular disease (54 percent) — including diabetes and peripheral arterial disease – trauma (45 percent) and cancer (less than 2 percent).

Shedding light on the risks of diabetes

The idea for my 2018 California Fellowship project is to shed light on the fact that Latinos who suffer from diabetes are sometimes unaware of the consequences of not taking proper care of their ailment and the detrimental results this can cause.

As part of a three-part series, combining expert interviews and first-person accounts, I will cover these three complications afflicting diabetes patients.

There will also be links and information about clinics, services and help available to them, as well as advice from experts and doctors.

[Photo by Agência Brasil Fotografias via .]

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