People with diabetes are at increased risk for serious long-term complications. Hyperglycemia, as measured by fasting plasma glucose concentration or glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), causes structural and functional changes in the retina, nerves, kidneys, and blood vessels. This damage can lead to blindness, numbness, reduced circulation, amputations, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease. Type 1 diabetes is more likely to lead to kidney failure. About 40 percent of people with type 1 diabetes develop severe kidney disease and kidney failure by the age of fifty. Nevertheless, between 1993 and 1997, more than 100,000 people in the United States were treated for kidney failure caused by type 2 diabetes.
African Americans experience higher rates of diabetes-related complications such as eye disease, kidney failure, and amputations. They also experience greater disability from these complications. The frequency of diabetic retinopathy (disease of the small blood vessels in the retina causing deterioration of eyesight) is 40 to 50 percent higher in African Americans than in white Americans. In addition, the rate of diabetic retinopathy among Mexican Americans is more than twice that of non-Hispanic white Americans. Furthermore, African Americans with diabetes are much more likely to undergo a lower-extremity amputation than white or Hispanic Americans with diabetes. Little is known about these complications in Asian and Pacific Islander-Americans.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and hyperosmolar hyperglycemia state (HHS) are serious diabetic emergencies and the most frequent cause of mortality. Both DKA and HHS result from an insulin deficiency and an increase in counter-regulatory hormones (a.k.a. hyperglycemia). Hyper-glycemia leads to glycosuria (glucose in the urine), increased urine output, and dehydration. Because the glucose is excreted in the urine, the body becomes starved for energy. At this point, the body either continues to excrete glucose in the urine making the hyperglycemia worse (HHS), or the body begins to break down triglycerides causing the release of ketones (by-products of fat breakdown) into the urine and bloodstream (DKA). The mortality rate of patients with DKA is less than 5 percent while the mortality rate of HHS patients is about 15 percent. Infection (urinary tract infections and pneumonia account for 30 to 50 percent of cases), omission of insulin, and increased amounts of counter-regulatory hormones contribute to DKA and HHS. Type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients may experience DKA and HHS. However, DKA is more common in type 1 diabetic patients, while HHS is more common in type 2 diabetic patients. Treatment of DKA and HHS involves correction of dehydration, hyperglycemia, ketoacidosis, and electrolyte deficits and imbalances.
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