In order to grasp the seriousness of diabetes in Acadiana, unfortunately, all one has to do is look at the numbers.
Throughout the United States, nearly 10 percent of the American population has diabetes. . In Louisiana, though, that number rises to 13.9 percent or 521,294 citizens according to the American Diabetes Association, making the disease the fifth leading cause of death according to the state Department of Health. In addition to that group, it’s estimated that approximately 100,000 more Louisiana residents have undiagnosed diabetes, costing the state $4.1 billion four years ago in direct medical expenses.
If recent diabetes trends continue to escalate at their current rate, by 2030 more than 600,000 Louisianans will have the condition.
“I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and diabetes has been, and remains a huge issue in Acadiana, in particular with the Cajun population,” says Dr. Weston Miller, Chief Officer of Abbeville General Hospital. “Many diabetic-condition patients and many laypeople think that the diabetic condition is all about high blood sugar. But in actuality, the diabetic condition is about blocked arteries. If you look at what happens under the microscope to the tissue that is ill-affected by diabetes, it’s all about microcirculation clogging — it’s about the diabetic condition leading to hardening of the microscopic arteries.”
“I don’t think the public is misinformed about what causes diabetes,” Dr. Miller says. “The public understands that obesity can lead and often does lead to diabetes in a high percentage of cases. However, obesity is not the only factor. So the cause of diabetes is still an area of discovery and research.”
The consequences and medical complications that can arise from diabetes are well established. According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetes is often an accelerant in cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, kidney damage, serious vision conditions, wound healing and infection after surgery, hearing impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, along with difficulty in other parts of the body.
“As a shoulder specialist, one of the things I see in my practice that seems to be more prevalent in patients with diabetes is something called Frozen Shoulder — the technical term being adhesive capsulitis,” says Dr. Malcolm Stubbs of Lafayette Bone and Joint. “It’s a condition where the shoulder becomes extremely stiff and starts out extremely painful, as well. And really, upper extremities and shoulder complaints aren’t something you normally associate with diabetes.”
For adults at high risk of diabetes, research shows that moderate weight loss (5 to 7 percent of current body weight) and regular exercise (30 minutes, five times a week according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention) can prevent or severely delay the condition. For those already diagnosed with diabetes, the side effects of the disease can be minimized as long as it’s detected and then treated accordingly.
“Most of our studies show that if a person is good at controlling their diabetes — as in they are already being treated, following diet restrictions and compliant with their medication — it can be managed,” Stubbs says. “Where we see the issues is when people lapse off their medication, or don’t lose weight or don’t handle their diet. But if you keep it under control, the risks are a lot less. That’s the main thing.”