For an alarmingly high number of Native Americans, a diagnosis of Type II Diabetes is the first in a series of preventable conditions that result in premature morbidity. The second is Diabetic Neuropathy, a nerve disorder caused by the uncontrolled blood sugar levels associated with diabetes.
Neuropathy damages nerves throughout the body. Burning, numbness, pain or tingling in the feet or legs are common symptoms of neuropathy—all of which signal that more serious problems may develop, like a foot sore the size of a dime. As any untreated foot sores grow, they can lead to the next serious complication, amputation. The final destination in this series of conditions is loss of life.
According to Carlyle Begay, board president at the Phoenix-based American Indian Health & Management Policy and member of President Barack Obama’s National Tribal Advisory Committee, diabetics who lose a limb have a “substantial mortality risk.”