White Earth Nation

What is Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that affects the way the body uses food. Normally, the body turns food into sugar for energy. Then, the blood carries this sugar to cells throughout the body. There, insulin, a hormone, helps turn sugar from food into energy for the body to work. But when you have diabetes, something goes wrong. The body makes little or no insulin or insulin can’t get blood sugar into the cells. As a result, the body doesn’t get the fuel it needs and blood sugar stays too high.

Over time, high blood sugar can cause:

  • Cardiovascular Problems- Diabetes can damage your blood vessels. This damage makes it easier for fatty deposits (plaques) to form in the arteries.
  • Eye Problems- Diabetic retinopathy causes from 12,000 to 24,000 new cases of blindness each year.
  • Feet and Limb Problems- High blood sugar can damage the nerves in your feet. A minor foot injury could become a serious infection.
  • Kidney Problems- Diabetes is a leading cause of chronic kidney failure in the United States. Kidneys filter waste from your blood and diabetes can damage this delicate filter system.


  • More than 107,000, or 14.5% of the population, of Native Americans receiving care from Indian Health Services have diabetes.
  • 30% of all Native Americans living here on the White Earth Reservation are diagnosed with diabetes.