It is essential that diabetics are aware of the complications that can occur as a result of having diabetes to ensure that the first symptoms of any possible illness are spotted before developing.
Diabetes complications involve the disruption of a variety of bodily systems and complications may occur over many timescales - from the date of diagnosis to years after diabetes has developed.
The majority of diabetes complications occur due to fluctuations in blood glucose levels, particularly elevated blood sugar over a long period of time. Controlling blood glucose levels and blood pressure has been proven to reduce the risk of diabetes complications.
Yeast infections such as thrush can be embarassing, but are infact very common in both men and women and are often easily treated.
Diabetic retinopathy usually only affects people who have had diabetes for a long time and can result in blindness - so checking your eyes is crucial.
High levels of ketones in the bloodstream can lead to a common complication of diabetes known as ketoacidosis.
Some of the symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Exaggerated mood changes
- Feeling light headed or dizzy
Where possible, check it is actually a hypo by doing a blood test as some of the hypo signs can sometimes be similar to high blood sugar symptoms.
To treat a hypo take 10-15g of quick acting glucose. Glucose tablets are ideal as they’re very quick acting and easy to measure how many carbs you’re taking.
If next meal is some time off, have a modest amount of longer acting carbs such as a slice of bread or a piece of fruit, such as an apple. If the hypo symptoms persist past about 15 minutes, check your blood glucose again and treat the same way again.
and long term complications and how to avoid them.
Diabetes affects the arteries of the body and as the kidneys filter blood from many arteries, kidney problems are a particular risk for people with diabetes.
Diabetic neuropathy is a nerve disorder of which there are 2 types - peripheral and autonomic, caused by either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Researchers have found that diabetic complications can be reversed in mice studies, by dietary methods alone, so there may be hope for us too.
Complications and Poor Control
Type 1 diabetes rarely results in retinopathy and nephropathy within the first five years, but kidney damage and eye diseases have been found to be more common amongst those with poor control.
Risks of diabetes complications climb once HbA1c levels exceed 9%, and again increase significantly above 12%.
Type 2 diabetes may often result in vascular complications such as heart attacks, stroke and problems with circulation.
By closely controlling blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol, people with diabetes can help lower their risk of diabetes complications.
Moreover, a lifestyle involving a good diet, regular exercise and no smoking also help to reduce diabetes complication risks.
Diabetes complications is broken down by areas of the body and related organs and is complemented with guides to each of the major complications, screening and prevention.
Body and Organs
- Diabetic nephropathy Nephropathy is the deterioration of proper functioning in the kidneys.
- Diabetic neuropathy A nerve disorder which can affect type 1 and type 2 diabetics.
- Autonomic neuropathy When nerves that help control involuntary functions become damaged.
- Motor neuropathy When motor nerves controlling muscle movements get damaged.
- Sensory neuropathy Damage of sensory nerves affecting hands, feet, legs and arms.
- Diabetic nerve pain A syndrome that affects both type 1 and type 2 diabetes sufferers.
- Fatty liver disease A common disease that occurs in overweight or obese type 2 diabetics.
- Gastroparesis A disorder in which the stomach takes too long to empty; affecting T1s + T2s.
- Heart disease A complication that may affect people with diabetes if their condition develops.
- Hypertension High blood pressure affects 50% of people with diabetes.
- Irritable bowel disease IBS can cause uncomfortable and unpleasant symptoms.
- Ketonuria Occurs when high levels of ketone bodies are present in the urine.
- Mental health Diabetes diagnosis can often lead to anger, denial, fear or depression.
- Proteinuria A condition of having too much protein in the urine resulting from kidney damage.
- Stroke People with diabetes face a much greater likelihood of stroke or heart disease.
- Urinary incontinence Urinary incontinence affects around 5% and 13% of men and women respectively.
Eyes and vision
- Diabetic retinopathy The most common form of diabetic eye disease and can result in blindness.
- Retinopathy symptoms Diabetic retinopathy is caused by high blood sugar levels + high blood pressure.
- Retinopathy treatment Retinopathy can be treated, especially if caught at an early stage.
- Diabetic maculopathy Damage to the macula which provides us with our central vision.
- Cataracts Cloudy opacifications of the eye lens causing vision interference.
- Eye disease Eye problems occur when blood glucose levels are left untreated.
- Glaucoma Caused by excess fluid pressing on the nerve at the back of the eye.
- Visual impairment Visual impairment occurs when blood vessels in the retina are damaged.
- Alzheimer's disease A form of dementia found to be closely linked with type 2 diabetes.
- Coeliac disease A condition that occurs when lining of small intestine is damaged by gluten.
- Constipation Affects most people and varies from infrequent to a long term condition.
- High cholesterol Cholesterol is effectively blood fat that comes in two major forms.
- Cushing's syndrome A condition which can occur when high levels of cortisol are in your blood.
- Diarrhoea Bowel infection (gastroenteritis) is the most common cause of diarrhoea.
- Deep vein thrombosis Blood clots that develop in larger veins such as in the legs.
- Erectile dysfunction A common problem that affects between 35-75% of males with diabetes.
- Fibromyalgia An occurance of pain in fibrous tissues - with a lack of energy and extreme fatigue.
- Memory loss Reduced brain functioning occurs in periods of high + low blood glucose.
- Nocturia Nighttime urination, or nocturia, can be a sign of uncontrolled blood sugar levels.
- Peripheral arterial disease When blood vessels in the legs become blocked or narrowed due to fat deposits.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome A condition that can affect a woman's ability to produce eggs.
- Urinary tract infections A bacterial infection that grows within the urinary tract: from kidneys to urethra.
- Yeast infections Affects warm, moist areas of the body e.g. vagina, penis and mouth.
Feet, bones and skin
- Acanthosis Nigricans A common skin condition which darkens the neck and armpits.
- Amputation Amputation is the worst case scenario for many diabetes complications.
- Charcot foot A foot complication likely to occur in lower limbs with nerve damage.
- Foot care Caring for your feet as a diabetic is not difficult - it should be a prime concern.
- Foot ulcers Patches of broken skin usually on the lower leg or feet due to nerve damage.
- Hand conditions Generally less serious where amputation is unlikely.
- Joint pain Diabetes affects both the nerves and circulation which can result in joint pain.
- Lipohypertrophy Appearance of fatty lumps on skin - a common side effect of insulin injections.
- Osteoporosis A condition resulting in weakened bones and lower bone density.
- Skin care Keeping skin in good condition should be a priority for diabetics.
- Dead in bed syndrome A term used to describe the sudden unexplained deaths of young type 1s.
- Diabetic coma A result of very low or very high blood glucose levels in diabetics.
- Diabetic ketoacidosis A dangerous problem when the body starts running out of insulin.
Hyperosmolar Nonketotic Coma A dangerous condition with very high blood glucose levels in type 2s.
Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome Results from very high blood glucose levels - common in older people.
- Dental health A gum inflammation can occur when bacteria develops into plaque.
- Dry mouth A dry mouth can promote a breeding ground for bacteria in the mouth.
- Gum disease Gum disease is one of the lesser-known complications that can affect diabetics.
- Gingivitis An early form of gum disease when teeth get over exposed to bacteria.
- Periodontitis Periodontitis is gum infection that can be serious if not treated immediately.