By Naval Hospital Guam Public Affairs
In 2005, diabetes and associated complications were the fourth leading cause of death on Guam.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease, and occurs when the body is not able to produce any or enough insulin, which causes elevated levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood.
There are two common types of diabetes. Type I diabetes, typically diagnosed when people are young and believed to be caused by genetic or environmental factors. Type II diabetes is commonly associated with obesity, older age, physical inactivity, and family history of type II diabetes or a personal history of gestational diabetes. Diabetes can lead to multiple chronic medical problems.
Diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar is continually and sometimes dangerously elevated. Organs supplied by this blood can be affected or damaged. Health conditions linked to diabetes include heart disease, vision loss and even blindness, kidney disease, nerve damage (neuropathy), foot ulcers, and poorly healing wounds.
Type II diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic amputation. Nerve damage, also known as diabetic neuropathy, can cause disrupted sensation and numbness in the feet and legs. It is not uncommon for a diabetic patient with neuropathy to have an injury to their lower extremities and not be aware of the damage. The injury may worsen because the person is unaware and because diabetes can cause poor wound healing. A small cut or minor injury can turn into a serious infection, sometimes only treatable by amputation.
A study done by the Guam Diabetes Association demonstrates that Guam has a diabetes prevalence rate of 11 percent. Approximately 12,000 adults out of 120,000 have diabetes.
A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration census on aging shows that there were approximately 75,000 people ages 55 years and older living on Guam in 2009. Using the same prevalence rate, approximately 8,300 from the elderly population will be diagnosed with or currently have diabetes.
One in eight adults living on the Pacific Islands has served in the armed forces. A portion of Guam’s elderly are veterans and armed forces retirees. A large share of these residents are cared for or referred to NH Guam.
Navy Medicine’s, Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set®, known as HEDIS® is used to measure performance on important dimensions of care and service. It includes how hospitals manage patients in areas such as screening and chronic medical issues such as diabetes. However, until recently tracking NH Guam patients wasn’t always easy. Without directly focusing on diabetes, the patients could easily slip through the cracks.
It was especially true for patients diagnosed with uncontrolled diabetes. Because of these factors NH Guam has made diabetes a priority by establishing a diabetes clinic, to improve patient quality of life, as well enabling the hospital to efficiently track their status and health.