Contributed by- Dr. Dhrity Vats
If you are a diabetic, your body is at a higher risk of damage to different organs. Uncontrolled diabetes damages the nerve and blood vessels, and since these are found everywhere in the body, the possible complications are many. Knowing how diabetes shall affect your body can help you track the severity of damage and control them at the right time. Probable complications include damage to large and small blood vessels, which can lead to heart attack, stroke, and problems with the kidneys, eyes, gums, feet and nerves.
Listen to your body! It reveals the most common symptoms of undiagnosed or uncontrolled diabetes, sending out alarms like:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Blurry vision
- Tingling in feet and hands
Diabetes: Long-term Complications & Damage
Once diagnosed with diabetes, a lot of complications develop if the treatment is not followed well. The treatment does not just include medicines but also a lifestyle change that needs to be initiated by an individual. Sometimes, the long-term damage caused by diabetes becomes irreversible, so a continuous check to study the severity and cause of few symptoms is recommended.
Effect of Diabetes on Heart
Too much glucose in your system can cause restricted blood flow, also known as Atherosclerosis, the “hardening of the arteries”, leading to a variety of symptoms. The risk is greater for people with diabetes, who often have increased cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Smoking, having a family history of cardiovascular disease and a sedentary lifestyle also increases your risk. Atherosclerosis also increases your probability of getting a stroke. Take care of your heart.
Effect of Diabetes on Eyes
The most common complication is Diabetic Retinopathy. Retinopathy is caused by the swelling and leaking of blood vessels in the back of the eye (the retina). High blood pressure is also a contributing factor for diabetic retinopathy. Retinopathy has various stages. In its early stages, there are usually no symptoms, so having a full diabetes eye check is essential to detect it early. Regular eye checks help detect any changes and allow for early treatment where needed, to prevent any further damage.
Effect of Diabetes on Kidneys
Kidneys are another organ that is at particular risk of damage as a result of diabetes and the risk is again increased by poorly controlled diabetes leading to Diabetic Nephropathy (or diabetic kidney disease). The first sign shown is frequent micturition (urination) with albumin in it. High levels of protein in the urine may mean that your kidneys have suffered some damage and aren’t functioning well. Kidney disease is painless and does not cause symptoms until it is advanced. Everyone with diabetes should have a urine check for microalbumin at least once a year. Your doctor will also monitor your kidney function, including estimated glomerular filtration rate (e-GFR) with a blood test.
Effect of Diabetes on Nerves
Nerve damage (neuropathy) is usually caused by high blood glucose levels. Damage can occur to the sensory (feeling) and motor (movement) nerves of the legs and feet, arms, hands, chest and stomach, and to the nerves that control the actions of body organs. The presence of nerve damage is commonly noticed by:
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Lack of arousal in the penis or clitoris
- Excessive sweating
- Diagnosis of delayed stomach emptying
Effect of Diabetes on Skin
People with diabetes sometimes may experience very dry skin because of the damage to the small blood vessels and nerves. The most common problem for people with diabetes is very dry skin on the feet and cracked heels, but this may be more generalized.There are also other skin conditions related to diabetes. High blood glucose levels over time affect the health of the skin. The skin acts as a barrier to protect our bodies from infection so it is important to keep the skin as healthy as possible. If the skin becomes dry, it can lead to cracks and possible yeast, bacterial and fungal infections.
Effect of Diabetes on Foot
Diabetics are at higher risk of feet damage when the blood supply in both large and small blood vessels is reduced. Apart from nerve damage, structural abnormalities can also occur, for example, clawed toes. Reduced blood supply and nerve function also delays healing, increases the risk of infection, reduces sensation in the feet, and leads to ulcers and structural foot problems. It’s advisable to regularly check for cuts, blisters calluses, corns, tinea in between the toes.
Diabetes and Oral health
People with poorly managed diabetes are at an increased risk of tooth decay and gum infections. This is due to the damage to the small blood vessels supplying blood to the gums and teeth. Dental and gum infections can also lead to high blood glucose levels. Not looking after your teeth and gums can cause the gums to become inflamed and loosen around the teeth. Regularly visit the dentist to avoid any complications.
Take Control of Your Diabetes!
- Diabetes damages the small and big blood carrying vessels so with gradual ignorance of diabetes the other body organs shall be damaged.
- All the risk which falls under diabetes can be easily reduced if kept a watch on.
- Regular screening of Blood Glucose levels, HbA1c, Blood Pressure and Cholesterol should be done.
- Lifestyle changes help lower all risk parameters. Avoid smoking and alcohol. Walk and eat healthy.