Diabetes Health Complications
What They Are, The Warning Signs, And What You Can Do.
Diabetes can impact nearly every organ in the human body. Maintaining proper blood sugar levels is critical to preventing serious health complications.
No one said it would be a walk in the park to get and keep your diabetes under control. But it is well worth the effort because the alternatives can be downright debilitating and, in some cases, even deadly.
While that can sound frightening, this post is certainly not meant to scare any of you living with diabetes. Rather, it is meant to reinforce the importance of living with a solid diabetes health and treatment plan. Because by adhering to a healthy diet and approved exercise program, and by following your insulin treatment program and instructions for other medications prescribed by your doctor, your risk of experiencing serious health complications is dramatically reduced.
The first step to prevention, of course, is being aware of the potential risks you face and that is what this post is meant to provide you. There are two primary types of diabetes complications - acute and chronic. Acute diabetes complications are the most dangerous and require immediate emergency attention. Chronic diabetes complications are the direct result of fluctuations in blood sugar levels that, while not immediately life-threating, can become dangerous when left unchecked.
At diabeticwarehouse.org, we are committed to helping you adhere to your physician-led diabetes treatment plan by making it easier to get the supplies you need from leading manufacturers including FreeStyle, Accu-Chek, Easy Comfort, One Touch, BD Ultra-Fine, Medtronic and others. Shop a full selection of glucose test strips, glucose meters, continuous glucose monitoring systems, insulin syringes, pen needles and other diabetic care needs with point-and-click convenience and affordable pricing.
Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)
Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is an acute diabetes complication that requires immediate attention. There are a variety of reasons someone with diabetes may experience hypoglycemia, including taking too much insulin or medication, skipping meals, and exercising too hard or more often than usual.
The bottom line is that you end up with blood sugar levels that are far too low for the body to perform its normal functions. The worrisome part is that people experiencing hypoglycemia often have no idea that their blood sugar is dropping until symptoms suddenly manifest.
Mild to moderate symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
– Blurred vision
– Mood swings
– Rapid heartbeat
Severe reactions include:
– Fainting/loss of consciousness
– Diabetic coma
If you or someone you know with diabetes experiences mild symptoms, eat or drink easily digestible carbohydrates immediately. A tablespoon of honey, a half cup of juice, or four to five saltine crackers can help elevate blood sugar to safer levels. Contact your physician immediately for further instructions.
Severe symptoms, however, require emergency medical attention. Some diabetics carry a drug called glucagon specifically for severe hypoglycemia. Administer it right away and call 911 or rush the patient to the nearest hospital.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is an acute diabetes-related condition that can lead to a diabetic coma and, in some cases, even death. So, what is it? DKA occurs when the body does not have enough insulin to effectively process glucose. When this happens, the body begins to burn fat which, in turn, produces high levels of ketones, chemicals used to break fat down into energy. Unfortunately, too many ketones can poison the body, which is why when DKA occurs it usually requires hospitalization.
Early warning signs to watch for:
– Extreme dry mouth
– Frequent urination
– High blood glucose test results
Late onset symptoms:
– Flush or dry skin
– Fruity odor on breath
– Nausea/abdominal pain
If you or someone you know with diabetes experiences any of these symptoms, contact your diabetes physician right away or go to the emergency room of your local hospital immediately. This is a serious complication and not a time to wait and see.
Checking for ketones
You can measure ketones with a simple urine test that uses test strips similar to the glucose test strips you use to measure your blood sugar level. Ask your diabetes physician if you should test for ketones as part of your diabetes treatment plan.
Neuropathy (Nerve Damage)
According to the American Diabetes Association, about 50% of all individuals living with diabetes have some form of nerve damage. There are two types of diabetic neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy can cause pain, burning, numbness and weakness in the feet, usually beginning in the toes. It can also extend to the hands and fingers.
Autonomic neuropathy affects the nerves in the body that control your internal organs, which can lead to sexual problems, digestive issues, dizziness, and other symptoms.
The good news is, if you keep your blood sugar in check, you can prevent or lessen the impact of neuropathy. That’s why it is so important to always have the right diabetic supplies on hand for your treatment regimen - test strips, glucose meters, insulin syringes, pen needles, infusion sets – whatever your doctor and care team recommend.
Diabetic Related Eye Complications
Those living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk for developing certain eye problems. However, most of these concerns can be kept to manageable issues with proper eye care and regular checkups.
Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up in the eye, pinching the blood vessels and inhibiting blood from reaching the optic nerve. Vision is gradually lost as the retina and the optic nerve become damaged due to this lack of blood flow. The longer you’ve had diabetes and the older you are, the more likely you are to develop glaucoma. It can be treated with drugs as well as surgery.
Cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s clear lens, are common among diabetics. Additionally, we tend to develop them at a younger age than most people would expect to get cataracts. For severe cases, surgeons will remove the lens and replace it with an artificial lens. The surgery is minor. However, in people with diabetes, another eye condition called retinopathy can worsen after the removal of a lens.
Diabetic Retinopathy involves damage to the small blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. Symptoms include blurred vision, “floaters” that drift into the line of sight, and dark or empty areas of vision. Retinopathy is the leading cause of PREVENTABLE blindness among diabetics, which is why it is so important to have your eyes checked regularly. Should you notice any sudden changes in vision, don’t delay, see your eye doctor immediately.
According to the American Diabetes Association, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death among diabetics, accounting for two-thirds of all deaths in those with Type 2 diabetes.
CVD manifests in many forms including:
– Heart attack
– Heart failure
Contributing factors include:
– High blood pressure
– Blood sugar level
– Family history
Signs of a problem include:
– Shortness of breath
– Chest/back/jaw pain
– Numbness or discomfort in the extremities
– Quick or irregular heartbeat
– Swelling of feet and ankles
Choose a heart healthy lifestyle and follow your diabetic treatment plan.
Once again, here’s the good news. A healthy diet, regular exercise, stress management, adequate sleep, and, of course, proper diabetic healthcare and treatment can dramatically reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Always make sure you check your blood sugar levels as directed by your diabetes physician and ask about getting an A1C test, which reports your average blood sugar over the past two or three months. As general rules, the ADA also recommends getting a complete foot exam once a year and having your cholesterol checked at least every five years.
As always, ask your doctor and care team about creating a personalized heart healthy diabetes care and treatment plan that works for you.
Diabetes, particularly in cases where blood sugar levels remain high for prolonged periods, can require the kidneys to filter an excessive amount of blood. Essentially, these essential organs become overworked, which can lead to damage and, eventually, even renal failure. It is important to note that not everyone with diabetes develops kidney disease because those able to keep their blood sugar levels under control are at a far lower risk.
Self-care can make all the difference. According to the ADA, research shows those with diabetes who are able to keep blood glucose levels in the target range can reduce the risk of kidney disease by over 30%. Make sure you always have the diabetic supplies and equipment you need to keep your blood sugar in check.
Common skin conditions can become more pressing problems for those living with diabetes. These include bacterial infections, fungal infections, and localized itchiness and irritation. Without proper treatment, they can develop into more serious health concerns.
Additionally, there are skin conditions that only happen to those with diabetes, including diabetic dermopathy, diabetic blisters and eruptive xanthomatosis. Most of these are directly related to blood sugar levels and, therefore, can be brought under control with proper insulin treatments.
Once again, here is the silver lining. Most diabetes-related skin problems can be prevented or easily treated when caught early and handled properly. Here’s what you need to remember:
- Maintain proper blood sugar levels and follow your insulin treatment guidelines. Test your glucose level regularly, and whether you use insulin syringes, pen needles or an insulin infusion system, make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter.
- Take care of your skin:
- Keep it clean and dry
- Treat cuts and sores immediately, washing with soap and water
- Never use any antibacterial ointments without your doctor’s approval
- Pay extra attention to your feet, checking them daily for cuts and blisters
- Moisturize but never apply lotion between the toes, as this may cause fungus
- Use mild soaps and shampoos
- See your doctor or dermatologist about unusual or persistent skin problems
There is no getting around the fact that living with diabetes puts you at higher risk for a number of health concerns. However, you can dramatically minimize your risk by living right, eating right, and sticking to your doctor-prescribed diabetes care and treatment plan.
Maintaining a blood sugar level in your target range is key to preventing (or at least minimizing) any diabetes related complications you might face.
At Diabetic Warehouse, we are committed to helping you to do so with a large online selection of diabetic supply and equipment needs, affordable pricing, and fast delivery. We invite you to see for yourself at www.diabeticwarhouse.org.
Diabetic Warehouse is a trusted supplier of diabetes care products and accessories. For more information and to explore a complete range of products, including test strips, syringes and needles, glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.diabeticwarehouse.org.