March 22, 2004
Genetics and Heredity, Type 2
Question from Woodstock, Georgia, USA:
There seems to be a very high level of Native Americans in Arizona, that my sister knows, who have diabetes. As I have Native American in my background, I am wondering if there is a genetic link, or, is it maybe in only a certain number of Nations of American Indian? Or, is it found in all nations? Why is it so prolific in them or is that a misnomer?
My father has type 2 diabetes. He is having more trouble with his sugar. He was taking pills, but now he in on rapid-acting and long-acting insulin injections. He does not seem to be getting the dietary information he needs and his sugar is all over the place. He gets his health care from the Atlanta Veterans Hospital. He has bad episodes of burning and itching feet, anxiety, a burning in his stomach, and fast, erratic heart beats. He is unable to urinate during these spells. He feels nauseous and sweat just pours from him. He gets hot and flushed and feels very bad. They never really help him and appointments can be so far in-between. They do not seem to be interested in helping him with his health care concerns. What does he need to do?
Your first question is quite interesting. There are indications that native Americans may have a higher incidence of diabetes from a genetic standpoint. However, if you take similar native Americans from Central America, that incidence is lower. Part of the reasons is the lifestyle and diet. There are fewer carbohydrates and fats in their diet. Their exercise regimen is different than those from the southwestern United States. So, most likely, it is a combination of both factors. I would be diligent in your diet and follow-up with your physician regularly for screening in regards to the possibility of diabetes.
The second question may indicate diabetic neuropathy or another endocrine disorder. I would definitely seek another opinion in the Atlanta area. I realize that your father receives care from the VA, a government sponsored agency, but I would consider reaching outside the network for an endocrinologist in the area. There are many fine physicians in that specialty around Atlanta.