If you have diabetes, the you know the importance of proper management and making sure your diabetes is under control. If it is left untreated or not properly managed, your risk of developing diabetes-related complications can increase exponentially – and there are many complications that can occur. Among some of the most common complications that are associated with diabetes include heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, eye damage, and nerve damage (also known as neuropathy), just to name a few. Below we take a look at the link between diabetes and these complications that can occur, and the steps you need to take to reduce your risk.
Heart Disease and Stroke
While heart disease and stroke can occur as a result of many different factors (unhealthy eating, being overweight, if you are a smoker, and having high blood pressure or high cholesterol, for example), you can actually develop heart disease as much as 15 years earlier if you happen to be diabetic compared to individuals who are not diabetic – coronary artery disease, in particular – which is why it’s so crucial to ensure your diabetes is being properly managed.
Whether you are diabetic or not, it’s always important to pay close attention to your risk factors and practice maintaining a healthy lifestyle through things like healthy eating and getting regular exercise, as these are healthy habits that will help you to improve your overall health and wellbeing. To see just how at risk you might be, it’s also a good idea to have your blood pressure checked at every doctors’ visit, as well as measuring your A1C and blood lipid levels.
Type 2 diabetes is among one of the leading causes of kidney disease in Canada. In fact, as many as fifty percent of those diagnosed with diabetes will develop signs of kidney damage as a result of both high blood glucose levels and having high blood pressure. Over time, high blood glucose levels can cause the tiny blood vessels within the kidneys to become damaged and your kidneys will then be unable to properly filter your blood. This ultimately leads to what’s known as proteinuria, in which protein particles known as microalbumin will spill into the urine – and, as kidney disease progresses, your kidneys will begin to fail, and you will eventually need to go on dialysis or will require a kidney transplant.
Along with diabetes, kidney disease is also linked to high blood pressure – so this is something you will want to ensure that you are keeping at target range. It is also linked to smoking, so if you are a smoker then you need to quit. Having a healthy diet can also be helpful. Eating protein can make your kidneys have to work harder, so if you’re going to consume foods that contain protein then you need to make sure you’re eating smaller portions. You should also eat foods that contain less potassium and phosphorus.
Eye Damage (Diabetic Retinopathy)
When you have diabetes, it’s not uncommon to develop eye problems – including changes in vision, and even blindness. This is known as diabetic retinopathy. Caused by high blood glucose levels, this can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina – the tissue that lines the back of the eye. If left untreated, the damage can progress and you can develop further problems with your vision, which is again why it’s so important to ensure your diabetes is under control. Along with making sure your diabetes is properly managed, you should also be going for regular eye exams with your optometrist. It’s also important to note any changes with your eyes, such as blurred vision, to your optometrist immediately.
Nerve Damage (Neuropathy)
Nerve damage is considered to be one of the longer-term complications that is associated with diabetes. Having high blood glucose levels over an extended period of time can cause damage to the peripheral nerves, affecting limbs such as the hands, arms, legs and feet. Individuals who develop neuropathy may not notice things like simple cuts, scrapes, sores or blisters, which can increase the change of developing things like infections and foot ulcers, which also increases the chance of requiring amputation.
Common symptoms that are associated with neuropathy include sharp, shooting pain, burning, tingling or pricking sensations, throbbing pain, as well as numbness and having the inability to feel hot or cold temperatures. If you have signs of nerve damage, always inspect your legs and the soles of your feet for things like cuts and blisters, wear properly fitting, comfortable shoes, and take care of your feet in general. As always, you should also be sure to keep your blood sugar levels at target range.