5 Common Complications from Diabetes

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Staying healthy is a challenge for everyone, but for those managing diabetes, staying on top of changes to health status is crucial. According to the CDC, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death and can lead to permanent disability.

Even if a diabetic is doing everything right— managing and testing blood glucose levels, exercising, eating healthy etc.—a host of complications can surface, such as heart problems, nerve damage or blindness. It is important for these individuals to be aware of diabetes-related issues and know what signs and symptoms to watch out for.

Here are five common complications from diabetes:

  1. Heart disease: According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), approximately two out of three people living with diabetes dies due to heart disease. Diabetes affects cholesterol levels; raising a person's bad cholesterol while lowering their good cholesterol. When this happens, arteries are narrowed by a build-up of fatty materials and the chances of having a heart attack or stroke double. If a diabetic experiences chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, pain or discomfort in the arms, back, jaw or neck, or have nausea with exertion, call that individual's doctor or 911.
  2. Neuropathy: It is likely that almost half of people with diabetes have nerve damage, says the ADA. This condition causes loss of sensation and makes it easier for a person to injure themselves without noticing. Additionally, poor circulation and neuropathy often leads to a compromised immune system, as the body can't fight off infection or heal from wounds quickly. Although not everyone will suffer from neuropathy, it's essential to control blood glucose levels and report any symptoms to a doctor.
  3. Foot problems: Poor circulation and nerve damage can lead to infections of the foot that may become serious, spreading to the bone and leading to amputation. If a diabetic experiences a cut or other injury to their foot, they should keep it clean and notify their doctor immediately. Infections can be avoided by engaging in proper diabetes foot care practices such as keeping toenails short, wearing comfortable shoes and scheduling regular checkups with a podiatrist.
  4. Retinopathy: Eye trouble is common among folks living with diabetes. Some symptoms to watch out for include black smudges on the eye, blurred vision, sudden loss of vision in one eye, seeing rings around lights, dark spots and flashing lights. Again, by managing blood sugar levels a person with diabetes can avoid damage to their eyes. They should also consider going in for an annual eye exam by a retina specialist.
  5. Kidney failure: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure. Although this condition takes about 15 years to develop, it is a slow-growing problem that those living with diabetes should monitor by paying attention to fatigue, an increase in urination frequency, lack of concentration, sleep trouble, muscle cramping at night, lack of appetite, eye puffiness and swollen feet/ankles. A diabetic can also get routine tests to monitor their kidney function.

Today, 26 million Americans are living with diabetes. By 2050, as many as one in three adults could have the disease—keep yourself and your loved ones protected and informed about prevention and techniques to control diabetes.

Renata Gelman, RN, B.S.N., is assistant director of clinical services at Partners in Care, an affiliate of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY). In this role, she coordinates patient care and manages a multi-disciplinary team of field nursing and home health care professionals in the clinical area of a VNSNY’s private care division.

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2 Comments

I don't understand this. If you are doing all the right things and glucose is under control and you have a good A1C, why would you have complications. I have read you get the complications from NOT having it under control. Please advise where I can read more to understand and gain insight into what you are saying.
Thank you.