Survey: One-Third Of Hispanic Patients Exhibit Warning Signs Of Diabetes

By Brian McCurdy, Senior Editor

    Podiatrists often face the challenge of patients with diabetes who are unaware they have the disease. A new survey commissioned by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) discovers that such problems are particularly challenging among Hispanic-American patients, finding that a significant percentage of this patient population exhibits the warning signs of the disease.     One-third of Hispanic Americans without diabetes report foot and leg problems, according the APMA survey. These lower-extremity problems include numbness, tingling or burning, as well as cramping calves, which are all precursors of diabetes, according to the survey of 600 patients. The APMA says the survey results are in line with statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimates that almost half of the 2.5 million Hispanic Americans with diabetes do not know they have the disease.     Although diabetes is often a delayed diagnosis among Hispanic-American patients, Kathleen Satterfield, DPM, says the diagnosis “is not an unexpected one.     “When that lab result comes back and the patient is told, nine times out of 10 the response was, ‘Yeah, I thought so,’” says Dr. Satterfield, a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. “After all, so many of these people live with diabetes in their families each and every day. They have watched their aunts and uncles, grandparents and parents lose limbs and eyesight due to the ravages of the disease. They know when it hits.”

Are There Significant Barriers To Care?

    Furthermore, the U.S. Census Bureau notes that Hispanic Americans are nearly 50 percent less likely to visit a physician than non-Hispanic whites, according to the APMA. The association notes that in the Medicaid program, access to podiatric care is optional and nearly a million Hispanic-American patients are enrolled in Medicaid. Accordingly, David Schofield, DPM, the President of the APMA, in an APMA press release, says many visits to podiatry practices “may not be covered under the current system …” and notes this may contribute to lower-extremity complications of diabetes being underdiagnosed.     While Dr. Satterfield notes economic and geographic factors that contribute to a lack of access to the healthcare system, she says the biggest barrier to care may be a state of denial. While some patients may have a lack of awareness of the disease process, Dr. Satterfield says some Hispanic-American patients “have seen what diabetes can do and they do not want to admit that they have it because that would mean a change in lifestyle.”     To spur early diabetes detection, Dr. Satterfield suggests reaching children first. She cites a program by researcher Robert Trevino, MD, who set up a program for hundreds of kids with diabetes in San Antonio. The program rewarded the children for good behavior and Dr. Satterfield says the kids exercised, watched what they ate and also influenced their families’ behavior.     “Children are amazing motivators and I think that by concentrating on this population, we can do the most good,” says Dr. Satterfield.

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