By Lynette Tolson Somers, Director of State Government Affairs, American Diabetes Association
Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects the movement of glucose from the blood stream to the cells. When blood glucose levels rise, it signals the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key that unlocks a door to let the glucose move into the body’s cells for use as energy.
If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make insulin or enough insulin, or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. This could result in too much glucose staying in your bloodstream.
High blood glucose levels over a long period of time can lead to several very serious complications related to diabetes. One of these complications includes diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage that can result in a loss of feeling). In addition, some people with diabetes have plaque build-up in their blood vessels, as well as damage to their blood vessels, impairing circulation and healing.
Loss of feeling can increase risk for sores that can become deep ulcers. Without proper treatment, tissue may not heal, and infection may develop and spread. An amputation of a toe, foot or lower limb may be required to prevent more damage.
Tragically, every 4 minutes in America a limb is amputated because of diabetes. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) developed a Health Equity Bill of Rights to ensure the more than 133 million Americans living with diabetes and prediabetes, along with the millions more who are at risk for diabetes—no matter their race, income, zip code, age, education, or gender—get equal access to the most basic of human rights: their health. The ADA’s Bill of Rights includes the right to avoid preventable amputations by providing access to care.
Medicaid expansion would have a positive impact on diabetes by allowing individuals to appropriately manage this chronic disease and to address related complications with affordable access to medications, tools, education, and health care. By supporting proper care, Medicaid expansion can help save limbs and prevent disability. Because of the risk for potential amputations, as well as other serious complications of diabetes, it’s time to expand Medicaid in North Carolina.