Blindness, kidney failure, and foot amputations are three complications of diabetes that many people know about. These are some of the
scary effects of having high blood sugars over a long period of time.
In fact, the fear of complications can either motivate a
person with diabetes to manage or improve their blood sugar levels or it may
cause them to feel powerless about avoiding additional health problems. What
are some long-term complications and what causes them?
Complications develop slowly over time from the effects of
too much glucose circulating in the blood stream. If too much glucose builds up
inside the lining of either the small or large blood vessels, it can cause a
thickened area or a blockage. Damage to the small blood vessels in the eye, for
instance, can cause bleeding, which affects a person’s ability to see. Too much
glucose in the blood can also damage nerve cells and their ability to send and
receive messages to the brain. Too much glucose can also affect the body’s
ability to fight off infections.
Eye problems (retinopathy)
Kidney disease (nephropathy)
Heart attack or stroke
Nerve damage (neuropathy)
neuropathy - pain or numbness in fingers, toes, feet, or lower legs; this complication,
in addition to poor circulation and infection, may eventually necessitate an
Autonomic neuropathy – problems with sexual
function, changes in stomach and bowel function
Frequent skin and bladder infections, yeast
infections, tooth and gum disease
Diabetes increases the risk of developing long-term
complications, but these do not have
to happen. A large research study, the Diabetes Control and
Complications Trial, showed that improving one’s A1c value helps reduce the
risk of complications.
For help in achieving an A1c of less than 7 percent, follow
your doctor’s recommendations for medications, food intake, and exercise, and
meet regularly with a certified diabetes educator to adjust these
recommendations as needed. Regular eye checkups, blood tests for kidney
function, and daily inspections of your feet and skin are also part of
preventing or identifying symptoms early.
And if you still smoke, stop as soon as possible. Let your
concerns about complications help you take control of your diabetes!