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AJMC: Understanding Diabetes Risks Can Save Your Limbs

Dec 4, 2019

Diabetes is a well-known term; however, it’s safe to bet most people don’t fully understand the disease, its risks, and its serious health implications.  In recognition of American Diabetes Month, it is important to acknowledge the various health risks associated with diabetes, including peripheral artery disease (PAD), which can lead to devastating health outcomes.

Across the United States, diabetes poses a major health challenge for all age groups, races, and both men and women. According to the latest statistics, more than 30 million Americans—nearly 10% of the US population—have been diagnosed with diabetes. Meanwhile, an additional 84.1 million Americans have prediabetes. As the seventh leading cause of death in the United States,  diabetes is a complex, chronic health condition that can also lead to many painful and dangerous complications.

One of the little-understood complications of diabetes involves damage to a person’s arteries. Over time, blockages can build up and restrict the blood flow in a patient’s limbs and lower extremities. This is called peripheral artery disease, or PAD. If left untreated, PAD causes leg pain and can often lead to multiple complications including gangrene, diabetic foot ulcers, and, eventually, amputation.

While not all patients with PAD have diabetes, the disease is a significant risk factor. Nationwide, 8 to 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with PAD, including 1 in 20 Americans over the age of 50. And with as many as 25% of American seniors living with diabetes, the risks of developing PAD are significant.

This is especially true for communities of color, who disproportionately suffer from both diseases.  African Americans are 80 percent more likely than whites to be diagnosed with diabetes and twice as likely to die from it. Data show African American patients with diabetes are more than 3 times more likely to have their limbs surgically removed than their white counterparts. Other minority groups face similar odds: Hispanics are 75% more likely to develop PAD than whites, while, in the western United States, Native Americans are twice as likely to suffer from the disease.

Click here to see the full article on the American Journal of Managed Care’s website. 

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