All about Diabetes Complications (and Symptoms and Causes)

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Type 1 diabetes complications
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Although millions of Americans have diabetes, many people still don’t understand the cause of diabetes, or what are the leading causes of the disorder. Diabetes is a condition that occurs due to an abnormality of the human metabolism — the way in which our bodies digest and then use food for energy and growth. There are three types of diabetes. There’s type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes, which can develop in pregnant women. Those who have type 1 diabetes are usually born with it, while type 2 diabetes can progress through several serious risk factors, including poor diet. Let’s first take a closer look at these warning signs and the symptoms before focusing on diabetes complications.

What are the Risks Associated with Diabetes?

Type 1 Diabetes

As mentioned, type 1 diabetes typically begins during adolescence, although not always. Your pancreas is either unable to or permanently stops making insulin in this case. You will have type 1 diabetes for life. The main factors associated with this type are:

  • Family History​​: If any of your direct relatives have type 1 diabetes, you are at high risk of all forms of diabetes. In this case, try to visit your doctor for a simple blood test to check if this situation applies to you. Be aware too that you must manage your condition properly or risk developing diabetes complications.
  • Diseases of the Pancreas​​: If at any point you develop gallstones, pancreatitis, or pancreatic cancer during your life, your body’s ability to produce insulin will slow dramatically. Younger men and women are more susceptible to diabetes in these cases.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, means that your body is unable to use the insulin it produces. This is known as insulin resistance. Type 2 is most common in adults, but it can begin at any time in your life. Because childhood obesity and sedentary lifestyles are becoming more common, type 2 diabetes can happen in adolescence. The main factors are:

  • Obesity or Being Overweight​​: Obesity is the main cause of type 2 diabetes. Adults, as well as preteens and teens, are suffering from this condition more than ever before. If you are obese, you are also at high risk of developing cardiovascular diseases​, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
  • Insulin Resistance:​​ Type 2 diabetes often begins with cells that resist insulin. As a result, your pancreas must work harder to make enough insulin to meet your body’s needs.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle​​: Exercising three times a week or more, while maintaining a healthy diet is the best method of avoiding type 2 diabetes.
  • Family History:​​ As with type 1 diabetes, having parent(s) or sibling(s) who has diabetes increase your chances of developing type 2.
  • Age​​: Are you over 45 and overweight? Or, do you have symptoms of diabetes? If so, talk with your doctor about getting a simple screening test.

What are the Symptoms of Diabetes?

There are very common symptoms of diabetes to watch for; seeing them can mean you need medical attention. If your body is unable to produce insulin adequately​, then you need proper prescribed medication or insulin injections​ ​to implement insulin into your body manually. ​Let’s look at the symptoms before moving onto talking about diabetes complications.

Common diabetes symptoms include, but are not limited to:​

  • Increase in thirst
  • Increase in hunger (especially after eating)
  • Frequent urination or urine infections
  • Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision

Examples of Diabetes Complications

Medication

A doctor may prescribe an SGLT2 inhibitor​. This is a class of prescription medications that are FDA-approved for use with diet and exercise to lower blood sugar in adults. These prescription drugs such as Invokana or Jardiance block glucose from being reabsorbed into the blood.

The effectiveness of these drugs varies, however, as the​ ​side effects of Invokana​ specifically ​can be dangerous and has been reported to have caused lower-limb loss and ​Fournier’s gangrene.​ Be sure to consult with your physician about what the safest option is for you.

Nerve Damage (Neuropathy)

Too much sugar in a diabetic’s diet is bad. It can hurt the walls of the tiny blood vessels in limbs that nourish your nerves. This is especially true in your legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, or pain that usually manifests at the tips of the toes or fingers and spreads slowly.

Kidney Damage (Nephropathy)

Diabetes can damage the delicate filtering system within the kidneys. Severe damage can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, which then requires dialysis​ or a kidney transplant.

Eye Damage (Retinopathy)

Here’s the last one on our list of diabetes complications. Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina, also known as diabetic retinopathy​, potentially leading to blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of several serious conditions within the eye such as cataracts and glaucoma.

This November, during Diabetes Awareness Month, watch for possible symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Protect you and loved ones against this terrible disease by staying active, eating a well-balanced diet, and getting regular check-ups. Lastly, find more information about diabetes at our other post here.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you, Christy, for sharing this article on diabetes. My husband has had type 1 diabetes for almost 45 years. It has been a balancing act the right amount of insulin injected, intake of food, and exercise to maintain normal blood sugars. Another potentially life-threatening complication of Type 1 diabetes is an insulin reaction in which the glucose levels go too low. The person will go into a cold sweat and become disoriented, appearing drunk or drugged. Fortunately, through tight control, my husband has not had the serious complications highlighted above. However, this is a serious disease which can have adverse health consequences and challenges for the family.

  2. Thank you, Christy. You’ve explained diabetes well. As you say, obesity is much more common now and a contributing factor to diabetes. I wonder when the trend will be turned around.

  3. Great information Christy.. I used to support several Diabetics, giving them their insulin as they had mental problems so couldn’t administer it themselves… And so important about diet… And knowing what to do if sugar levels drop…
    Wishing you a wonderful day and Thanksgiving if you celebrate it where you are , Sending much love and many thanks for all that you share.. <3
    Love Sue <3

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