Possible Diabetes Complications and How to Minimize Them
Diabetes results in a series of symptoms that will get progressively worse if left untreated. Over time, this disease can create serious complications in various parts of the body. The goal of diabetes management is to minimize the symptoms and prevent the impact on major systems such as the kidneys and heart.
There are two primary types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2, but both share similar symptoms. In diabetics, either the body does not produce enough insulin or doesn’t use the insulin it does produce effectively. Since insulin helps process the sugar in your bloodstream (which cells use for energy), your cells and your body don’t have enough energy to function correctly.
Without enough insulin to process sugar, the body must instead process fat to create the energy it needs. A side effect of this is the production of ketone in the bloodstream, which causes the blood to become more acidic. This can damage many organs in the body and, if not addressed right away, can cause the person to go into a diabetic coma, which can be fatal.
Complications from Long-Term Diabetes
Diabetes management is a mixture of diet, exercise, and medication. If allowed to progress without treatment, or if the treatment plan prescribed by a physician is not followed correctly, other health issues can arise. Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is the key to preventing more serious diabetes symptoms.
One side effect of diabetes is a reduction in blood flow through the small blood vessels in the body. This is most often seen in the hands and feet. Cold hands and feet can be a sign of reduced circulation in those areas. Sores on the feet can be a challenge for the diabetic. Wounds need good circulation to heal properly, which is why they heal slowly in the diabetic person.
Wounds should be carefully cleaned and wrapped every day, or more often if needed. The longer a wound exists, the more risk there is of infection. If not attended to, a wound on the foot of a diabetic can become infected, resulting in serious illness and a possible amputation of the foot. Although they were more common years ago, the number of amputations has reduced due to better wound care practices in the U.S.
Retinopathy is a condition that affects nearly 80 percent of the adults that have had diabetes for 15 years or longer. Damage to the retina can result in various levels of blurriness and even blindness. If treated early, vision loss can be minimized or prevented. Proper control of blood sugar level, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides is key to preventing this eye disease.
For a diabetic, the kidneys have to work overtime to try to rid the body of the excess sugar in the blood. This added stress on the kidneys, plus the increasingly acidic blood from ketone buildup, can result in kidney failure. Between 20 and 30 percent of people with diabetes may show some kidney damage after having the disease for 15 to 25 years.
Again, maintaining the overall diabetic treatment plan as prescribed is important. Keeping hydrated is also important. A diet that is kind to the kidneys is helpful. Frequent checkups are important to detect any early signs of kidney damage.
One complication of long-term diabetes that appears to be related to high blood sugar levels is called diabetic neuropathy. This is a loss of feeling, especially of pain. This most often occurs in the feet and legs. Cuts and sores can happen in those areas but you can’t feel them. If unnoticed for a period of time, they can become infected with more serious problems.
There is no treatment for this condition so you must be diligent about checking your feet and legs for any signs of injury. Treat the wound immediately and watch for any signs of infection. Any wound that fails to heal after a few days should be looked at by your physician.
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