Long-Term Complications of Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention
Time to read 9 min
Time to read 9 min
While diabetes itself might have minor symptoms, the long-term complications of diabetes associated with it can significantly affect your quality of life. That's why learning about the outlook for this disease is so important.
Let's get into the complications of diabetes and how you can reduce some of these risks to maintain a high quality of life.
This can narrow blood vessels, limiting your blood's ability to travel where needed. This means your organs won't work properly, which can cause various effects depending on which organ system is affected.
Diabetes and heart health are closely related. Coronary heart disease (CHD) occurs when blood vessels can't deliver oxygen-rich blood to your heart. It is a result of the buildup of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries of the heart, which causes them to become narrower and carry less blood.
Since this cardiovascular disease develops over decades, most symptoms go unnoticed until a cardiac event happens. However, certain symptoms hint at this disease, such as:
People with diabetes have a four times higher risk of developing CHD than those without diabetes.
Cerebrovascular disease happens when blood flow to the brain is reduced. This is caused when the carotid or vertebral arteries narrow, get blocked, or rupture. This condition can have the following symptoms:
Peripheral limb disease, such as peripheral vascular disease (PVD) or peripheral arterial disease (PAD), is a circulatory disorder that reduces blood flow through the arteries in the feet, calf, or thighs.
Most patients don't experience any symptoms. However, they may first experience leg cramping, discomfort, or pain that occurs with exercise and goes away with rest. Other symptoms include:
As this condition progresses, patients can develop dead tissue in the legs, which may require amputation.
Fortunately, this condition is preventable. Medications that treat diabetes and lifestyle changes, like exercising and eating a balanced diet, can help reduce your risk of getting PAD or PVD.
Diabetic nephropathy — also called chronic kidney disease — happens when uncontrolled diabetes causes blood vessel damage in the kidneys, reducing their ability to filter waste. It typically occurs ten to 15 years after a diabetes diagnosis.
Kidney disease doesn't always have visible symptoms, especially during the early stages.
However, you may notice:
If you develop the disease, you can slow its progression by managing your diabetes well.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the back of the eye (retina). This disorder can cause the following symptoms:
Fortunately, multiple diabetic retinopathy treatments can help repair eye damage and prevent blindness. These include retinal detachment, vitrectomy, laser surgery, and corticosteroid injections.
Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage that happens when long-term high blood sugar levels cause damage to your nerves. It has several types:
Unfortunately, there is no known cure to stop this disease from progressing. This is why treatment mainly focuses on slowing progression, restoring function, and relieving pain/other complications.
Diabetic foot is caused by consistently high blood sugar levels that damage the blood vessels in the calves and feet. This reduces blood circulation and prevents cells from receiving oxygen-rich blood and nutrients, causing them to develop gangrene (dead tissue) that has to be amputated.
However, this happens gradually and may cause you to experience the following symptoms before gangrene kicks in:
There is no way to reverse blood vessel damage once it happens. But you can take precautions to reduce the chances of it occurring. This means keeping your blood sugar levels in check and taking good care of your feet.
Necrobiosis lipoidica is a rare skin condition that causes patches of the skin to develop into ulcers. It usually affects the calves or ankles of people with diabetes.
This disorder begins as smooth red-brown bumps on the lower legs that progress into shiny, flat yellow-brown patches. These patches may develop itchy and painful ulcers if exposed to trauma.
They're also challenging to treat. However, laser therapy, corticosteroid injections, creams, and anti-inflammatory drugs can help if the patches haven't developed into ulcers. If they have, surgery may be required to treat them.
Mucormycosis is an aggressive, life-threatening fungal infection that often affects diabetic patients because they're immunocompromised. It is caused by molds that enter the skin at a trauma site, such as a cut or a burn.
The infection causes the following symptoms:
Mucormycosis can be fatal if not treated quickly. Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, several antifungal drugs are used to treat it. However, if the tissue has turned necrotic, surgical debridement (where necrotic tissue is removed using a scalpel) is required.
Diabetic cardiomyopathy is a disorder in which high blood sugar levels change the structure of the myocardium (heart muscle), causing it to become thick or stiff. It prevents your heart from pumping enough oxygen-rich blood to meet the needs of your cells. This leads to:
There is no cure for diabetic cardiomyopathy because it causes permanent changes in the heart tissue. It's managed by treating individual symptoms, such as swelling or shortness of breath.
Diabetic fatty liver disease occurs when too much fat builds up in the liver due to high sugar consumption and low physical activity. It leads to:
The fastest way to treat diabetic fatty liver disease is by limiting high-calorie food consumption, increasing physical activity, and losing weight.
Limited joint mobility syndrome (LJMS) is a disorder that reduces joint mobility and strength in the hands and feet of diabetic patients. As the disease progresses, it can also cause the impairment of other joints, such as the hip, spine, or shoulder.
It has the following symptoms:
LJMS is an irreversible disorder, so treatment focuses on slowing its progression and maintaining function through symptomatic therapy, daily exercise, or surgery.
Uncontrolled diabetes is the main cause of most long-term complications associated with the disease. This means controlling your sugar is the first step to take when looking to put a stop to diabetes-associated complications.
You can do this in several ways:
Getting annual medical checkups can help you catch diseases before they become problems. For instance, if you get regular eye assessments, you can catch the development of diabetic retinopathy early on in the disease.
Here are the recommended frequencies and intervals for different screening tests among people with diabetics:
Your blood pressure and cholesterol can combine with high blood sugar to cause metabolic syndrome, which worsens diabetes complications. For instance, a diet high in low-density lipoproteins (LDL) can increase arterial plaque and the risk of heart attacks.
Similarly, high blood pressure can damage the walls of renal veins and arteries, increasing the risk of developing kidney disease. This means controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure levels is essential if you're looking to reduce long-term diabetes complications.
Here's how you can do that:
Diabetes self-management is complex, difficult, and hard to manage even if you follow the best diabetes management tips. And if you’re insulin-dependent, you’re all too familiar with the painful injections that often cause bruising, and in some cases may even lead to infections.
That's where InsuJet comes in.
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