Diabetes and African American

The disease that is diabetes became an unnatural cause of death among African Americans at the turn of the century. By 1993, however, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, death certificates listed diabetes as the fifth leading cause of death for African Americans aged 45 to 64, and the third leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older in 1990.

Diabetes is more dangerous for African-American women, for whom it was the third leading cause of death for all ages in 1990. Diabetes death rates may actually be higher than these studies show for two reasons. First, diabetes might not have been diagnosed. Second, many doctors do not list diabetes as a cause of death, even when the person was known to have diabetes.

African Americans experience higher rates of three diabetes complications – blindness, kidney failure, and amputations. They also experience greater disability from these complications. Some factors that influence the frequency of these complications, such as delay in diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, denial of diabetes, abnormal blood lipids, high blood pressure, and cigarette smoking, can be influenced by proper diabetes management.

The following are the most common complications that one may run into when diabetes is left unchecked. There are even more diseases and complications that might come after diabetes. It is through constant regular checkup and consultations with doctors that one will be able to pick up signs of whether one already is in danger of having this disease.

Kidney Failure

African Americans experience kidney failure, also called end-stage renal disease (ESRD), from 2.5 to 5.5 times more often than white Americans. Interestingly though, hypertension, not diabetes, is the leading cause of kidney failure in black Americans. Hypertension accounts for almost 38 percent of ESRD cases in African Americans, whereas diabetes causes 32.5 percent. In spite of their high rates of the disease, African Americans have better survival rates from kidney failure than white Americans.

Visual Impairment

The frequency of severe visual impairment is 40 percent higher in African Americans with diabetes than in white Americans. This is a very significant fact that should prompt more focus on the community. Blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy is twice as common in blacks as in whites. Compared to white women, black women are three times more likely to become blind from diabetes. African-American men have a 30 percent higher rate of blindness from diabetes than white American men. Diabetic retinopathy may occur more frequently in black Americans than whites because of their higher rate of hypertension.

Amputations

African Americans undergo more diabetes-related lower-extremity amputations than white or Hispanic Americans. One study of 1990 U.S. hospital discharge figures showed amputation rates for African Americans with diabetes were 19 percent higher than for white Americans. In a 1991 California study, however, African Americans were 72 percent more likely to have diabetes-related amputations than white Americans, and 117 percent more likely than Hispanic Americans.