The real curse of diabetes is not so much the condition itself, but rather the adverse effect it has on other organs and functions of the patient’s body. These complications are numerous, insidious and potentially acute, these include the dreaded ‘hypo’ and ‘hyper’.
Hypoglycemia is when blood sugar (glucose) levels drop radically and the body is drained of all energy. At its worst a hypo can lead to unconsciousness. Diabetics need to carefully watch their diet, their exercise regime and balance these with correct and timely medication. A hypo can occur without any obvious cause but will almost certainly be the end result of skipping a meal or in-between bite, binging on alcohol or sugary foods, or overexertion of any kind.
Hyperglycemia is the other end of the same diabetic spectrum. It is where blood is overloaded with glucose. The symptoms are very unpleasant and include the dreaded ‘night-time peeing, excessive thirstiness, headaches and lethargy. The causes are likely to be one or more of five things: Missing or mistiming a dose of medication, overdoing the carbohydrates in meals, stress, post-infection weakness, or even self-inflicted by overshooting the treatment of a hypo.
Another complication that can arise from diabetes is called ‘neuropathy’, put simply it is damage to the nerves and will inevitably show up in the feet of diabetics. Stay in touch with your feet because nerve damage can do considerable damage in 3 ways. 1) Reducing the sensitivity or even numbing them totally. Worst case scenario is that a patient can suffer a cut or blister without feeling it and it can get very bad indeed. 2) Alter the muscle control and movements of feet. This can make walking difficult and painful and even alter toe shape and make arches fall or in the worst case even break bones. 3) Autonomic dysfunction is where your brain loses control of unconscious functions such as sweating. A diabetic’s feet can become dry quickly, leading to brittle skin, cracking, soreness and even infection.
A separate complication of diabetes that ends up affecting the feet is arteriosclerosis or clogging up of the arteries. This cuts off circulation to the feet with the result that any injury will not heal quickly enough and cramp or stiffness in the legs becomes more frequent. Again the risk of this complication is greater the poorer is the patient’s awareness and control over the diabetic way of life. Raised blood pressure and too much fat in the food eaten, both increase the probability of circulation difficulties. Smoking, for a diabetic is tantamount to suicide.
Persistent high levels of blood glucose can cause a diabetes complication known as retinopathy. Poor circulation to the retina, that part of the eye, at the rear that converts light into electrical brain impulses, will damage eyesight. The only way for diabetics to avoid blindness is to properly manage their condition. Blood pressure, glucose and fat content all need to be regulated within strict limits agreed and set by the doctors and the patient. And because it is a lifelong process the patient must take responsibility for monitoring and acting upon the trends noted.
Diabetics have a greatly increased risk of suffering the complication of cardiovascular disease. This is because diabetes is a disease of the blood. Changes to blood viscosity or lumps in the blood will restrict flow and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The worst case scenario is a build-up of fat in the arteries, with bits breaking off to then become stuck in narrow vessels to actually block off the flow altogether.
Your kidneys are the organs within your body that control various salts and hormones. When they fail the health effects are very bad. Unfortunately kidney failure is another of the more likely complications arising from diabetes.