Diabetes is a chronic, autoimmune disease that affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. The condition can be managed with proper dietary and exercise habits, but it can also become progressively more difficult to manage over time. Diabetes is becoming more prevalent in the United States; around 20 million American adults are estimated to have diabetes.
For many people with diabetes, it’s a self-limiting condition that goes away on its own within a few years. But for others, it’s a chronic and costly condition that increases their risk of developing other medical problems as well as potential long-term complications such as heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage.
What to Expect When Your Diabetes is Complicated?
Like many chronic diseases, diabetes is more complex and serious than it first appears. Here are some things you should know if your diabetes is complicated: Your diabetes is an autoimmune condition that can develop in people with low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). This means that even though your body is equipped to deal with low levels of sugar, it can develop a resistance to it.
Although most people with diabetes find that their condition improves with time, some people with diabetes can’t get control of their health conditions. This is called long-term complications of diabetes and is discussed below. Some people with diabetes also develop a condition called retinopathy, the leading cause of vision loss in people with diabetes.
Most cases of diabetes are mild and self-limiting, but for some people, the disease can be more serious. In these cases, the condition is called diabetes mellitus and it is accompanied by other health problems.
The Importance of Early Detection
The earlier that doctors detect complications of diabetes, the better. That is why a good tool for detecting and monitoring diabetes is so important. This is especially important for people with risk factors such as young people and people of certain ethnic groups. With a few simple tests, a doctor can detect whether a person has diabetes and, if necessary, perform a simplified and quick test to determine the proper type of medicine to treat that person.
Long-Term Complications of Diabetes
People with diabetes often have other health conditions that can lead to long-term complications. These include:
Heart disease: A condition called heart disease can develop when blood flow to the heart is reduced, and is often caused by an excess amount of blood in the vessels that feed the heart. This can develop in people with diabetes and other conditions that put the heart at risk.
Kidney disease: This results when the kidneys can’t regulate blood pressure properly and become overactive. It is common in people with diabetes and other conditions that put the kidneys at risk.
Nerve damage: This is the result of an increased rate of infections and inflammation in the body. As diabetes gets worse, there is less production of natural killer (NK) cells, which are essential for fighting infection and protecting against chronic diseases. This can lead to nerve damage and other conditions that can cause blindness.
Degenerative diseases: These are conditions that develop over time and are often related to old age.
Diabetic people are at increased risk of developing several types of degenerative diseases such as neurodegenerative diseases, muscle and nerve disorders, and autoimmune conditions.
How to Prevent Many of the Long-term Consequences of Diabetes
Unfortunately, the long-term complications of diabetes are largely due to poor diet and lack of activity. This can be changed with a healthy diet that includes:
Fruits and vegetables—Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and carbohydrates, and have a high fiber content that can help promote bowel regularity. They also contain natural antioxidants that can prevent damage caused by high amounts of sugar in the diet.
Nutrient-dense foods— Nutrient-dense foods contain vitamins, minerals, plant sterols, and other nutrients that can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke, as well as eye, liver, and pancreatic diseases.
Maintain a healthy body weight— People with diabetes should maintain a healthy body weight to avoid having their blood pressure raised, which can damage blood vessels.
While diabetes is a condition that can be managed with proper diet and exercise, it can also become more complicated with time. This is because the immune system becomes more aware of the condition and develops protective antibodies against itself. Additionally, as people age, they are more likely to develop complications such as heart disease, blindness, and kidney disease. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent many of these long-term complications.
To prevent long-term complications of diabetes, make sure you: Inquire about your health conditions and let your doctor know if you are at risk.
Include healthy fats in your diet— Fatty acids from fish and nuts can help reduce blood pressure and inflammation.
Drink plenty of water—Hormones in the body can cause fluid retention and high urination.
Exercise regularly—Physical activity helps maintain a healthy body weight and improve your health.
Maintain a healthy weight—People with diabetes should maintain a healthy body weight to stay healthy.
Keep your eyes and ears open for signs of diabetes. Call your doctor if you notice any of these signs:
– unexplained weight loss
– excessive thirst
– increased hunger
– blurred or changed vision
– dark urine
– pale/sallow skin
– tight/s frequent bowel movements
– worsening feeling of fullness after meals
– pain or discomfort in the lower back or stomach
If you notice any of these symptoms, call your doctor right away.
Dr Prashant Vas, Consultant Endocrinologist and Diabetologist explains what can go wrong with Diabetic Foot problems. The information is meant to inform and avoid these potential consequences with avoidance and early treatment.
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