Good blood sugar control is important for all diabetics. Diet, exercise and weight control should be the main goal for all diabetics. A healthy lifestyle can lower blood sugar levels and improve your health. Diabetes is often easy to ignore especially in the early stages. The body will appear to work well, but what actually happens is that the excess glucose in the blood keeps eroding the inner lining of the blood vessels, threatening major organs like the heart, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Though you may not feel the effects right away, you will eventually feel it later.
Compared with people who don’t have diabetes, people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die of heart attack, two to four times more likely to have a stroke, likely to become blind, likely to suffer kidney failure, and likely to have gangrene of the feet.
If your blood glucose is maintained close to normal, you can reduce the risks of complications. Diabetes can cause both short term and long term complications. People who take insulin should monitor their own blood sugar levels. They should also learn to recognize symptoms of Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) including anxiety, racing heart, sweating, tremors, and confusion. They should also know how to raise low blood sugar levels and how to get help in emergencies.
Long term effects of diabetes include:
Coronary artery disease
Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in people with diabetes. This causes narrowing of the blood vessels. When the blood vessels to the heart get narrowed, the blood flow is obstructed and it causes chest pain and heart attack. It is usually treated with aspirin, cholesterol lowering drugs and blood pressure drugs.
Stroke is another long term complication of diabetes which occurs when the blood supply to a part of your brain is interrupted or severely reduced and the brain tissue is deprived of oxygen and nutrients. Within a few minutes to a few hours, the brain cells begin to die. The Interruption can be from a clogged or blocked blood vessels (ischemic stroke) or from a leaking ruptured blood vessels (hemorrhage stroke). Ischemic stroke is more common.
Peripheral arterial disease
With peripheral arterial disease the arteries to the limbs, more commonly the legs, become clogged or partially blocked due to atherosclerosis (fatty deposits on the wall of the arteries). It causes pain, and cramping in the legs while walking. The treatment includes, control of cholesterol and high blood pressure and surgery to bypass the obstructed vessels.
Nerve damage (Nephropathy)
High levels of blood glucose can damage delicate nerves. Excess glucose weakens the walls of the tiny blood vessels that nourish the nerves.
Damage to the sensory nerves may leave you unable to perceive pain, warmth, coolness and texture.
Damage to the autonomic nerve can increase the heart rate and in men, and can interfere with their ability to have an erection.
Damage of the motor nerves causes weakness of the muscles
The symptoms include a tingling feeling, numbness, burning pain, stabbing and aching pain, and a crawling sensation. It is treated with pain relievers, Capsacin acupuncture, biofeedback and relaxation exercises.
Kidney Damage (Nephropathy)
Diabetes damages the filtering system of the kidneys. Up to 30% of diabetics eventually develop kidney disease called nephropathy. The longer you have diabetes, the higher your risk of kidney damage. The signs and symptoms of this long term complication of diabetes include, swelling of the ankles, feet and hands, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, poor appetite and a metallic taste in the mouth.
Eye Damage (Retinopathy)
High blood glucose affects the tiny blood vessels in the retina of the eye. In fact, among the long term complications of diabetes, they are the first to be affected. Almost everyone with Type1 diabetes and 60% of those with Type 2 diabetes have some kind of eye damage. The sign and symptoms of this long term effect of diabetes include, tiny specks floating in your vision, blurred vision, dark spot in the center of your vision, flashes of light, poor night vision and blindness.
Increased risk of infections
High blood glucose impairs the immune system, putting you at a higher risk of infection. Your gums, lungs, skin, feet, bladder and genitals are the common infection sites. The signs and symptoms of this long term complication of diabetes, depend on the site of infection. These are gum redness and bleeding, frequent urination and burning sensation when passing urine, vagina itching and pus and redness of the feet.
Long term effects of diabetes are usually due to people letting their glucose levels remain elevated for long periods of time. That is why early detection is important. The recommended testing for diabetes is every three years for people age 45 and older. If you have risk factors such as being overweight, having a diabetic parent or sibling, having high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels, you should begin testing earlier and should repeat your test every year.
Diabetes is a disease that does not have a cure. Diagnosing and treating diabetes have evolved into easier processes. A person with diabetes can normally live as they did before their diagnosis. Living with diabetes is a matter of taking control of the disease and preventing complications. Remember to recognize the signs and symptoms, see your doctor for regular check, exercise and eat a proper diet for a healthy life.