Managing and Preventing Diabetes Complications
In the United States, more than 30 million people are currently living with diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that happens when levels of blood glucose, more commonly known as blood sugar, are too high. Diabetes sometimes happens when the pancreas cannot manufacture enough insulin, which is a hormone that helps glucose from food get processed to be used in the cells for energy. It can also occur when the cells of the muscles, liver, and fat are not functioning properly and are not effective at using insulin to convert glucose. As a result, the amount of glucose in the blood will increase, while at the same time the cells are starved of energy.
The complications that can result from this imbalance caused by the disease can be severe. They include serious problems, such as heart disease, eye and kidney damage, high blood pressure, and nerve damage, which can result in the amputation of limbs.
While this laundry list of complications can be sobering and certainly very worrisome for patients, the good news is that patients themselves have the power to reduce their own potential for complications, and can successfully manage the disease. By practicing self care such as healthy eating, increasing physical activity, and monitoring their blood glucose levels, they can make a huge difference in their own health outcomes. For every common diabetes complication, there is an accompanying positive action that patients and loved ones can take to minimize potential damage and improve outcomes.
Nerve damage, which is called diabetic neuropathy, can appear as numbness, pain, tingling, or perspiration and bladder problems. It is caused by high blood sugar. You can help control your blood sugar through eating the diet that your health provider suggests, getting enough exercise, taking your medications as prescribed, and testing your blood glucose levels frequently.
Another issue for people with diabetes is that high levels of blood sugar foster the growth of bacterial and fungal infections, which are especially common in the skin and the urinary tract. You can decrease the risk of infection by making sure to keep your skin clean and dry, bathing regularly, drinking plenty of water, and making sure to inform your doctor about any cuts that don’t heal quickly. Diabetes is also associated with gum disease, which in of itself increases the risk of diabetes, so be sure to visit your dentist for regular checkups, as well as brushing and flossing as recommended.
It may surprise you to learn that diabetic eye disease is the number one cause of vision loss in adults. While many people develop glaucoma, cataracts, and retinal damage, for people with diabetes these problems develop more often, and at earlier ages. High blood sugar can injure the blood vessels of the eye, causing damage to the retina, lens, and optic nerve. Early detection and treatment can prevent or delay blindness in 90% of people with diabetes. Many eye conditions can cause damage long before symptoms appear, so make sure to have annual eye exams even if your vision seems fine.