What Happens If I Ignore My Diabetes?

With World Diabetes Day gone, I hope the newly diagnosed diabetics got some information on their condition and are more equipped to deal with it. The Diabetes Association of Trinidad and Tobago (DATT), has support groups throughout the country and resources by way of practitioners (doctors, nurses, diabetes educators), that can lead to the healthiest possible you!

Our food and lifestyle choices even without diabetes can lead to severe problems and diseases. With diabetes in the mix, the risk factor percentage is even higher. So be on your guard…

Yielding to Temptation

The temptation to ignore your condition is immense, because the complications seem so far in the future. You can have ice cream now and nothing bad will happen now, or even a month from now. The bad stuff happens later. For many people, having the effects of complications so far in the future helps them pretend to be a normal person, and they eat whatever they want. That’s a mistake.

It doesn’t hurt to sneak a peek behind the curtain and see what awaits those who don’t control their diabetes. Most diabetics don’t own a meter. Most don’t keep their blood sugar under tight control. What can they expect? Diabetes is really a group of serious diseases caused by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body’s ability to produce and or use insulin.

Diabetes can lead to severely debilitating or fatal complications, such as heart disease, eye disease, kidney disease, neuropathy, and amputations. Yes, lots of people lose their limbs or go blind. Excess blood glucose also impairs the ability of your white blood cells to fight off infections and wound healing. Type 2 diabetics aged 35 to 54 are three times more likely to die early than non-sufferers of the same age.

The complications from uncontrolled diabetes can be severe. Yet you don’t have to live each day in fear. Do the best you can to control your diabetes through food, exercise, and medication. Once you’ve truly done your best, then the results should be fine; if your blood glucose levels are still high, then visit your doctor.

Heart Disease

The interesting thing about diabetes is that you don’t die from it; you die of complications from it. Two-thirds of diabetics die of heart disease. The connection between diabetes and heart disease is so strong; by merely being a diabetic you are considered to be in the same risk category as someone who has already had a heart attack.

Your doctor should be talking to you about your cholesterol. Diet and exercise won’t be enough. A low carb diet has a very positive effect on cholesterol for many people. The whole cholesterol/heart disease issue is a complex one. Do your own research and figure out what is best for you. The good news is that tight blood glucose control can lower your heart disease (heart attack, stroke, and angina) risk by 50%.

Eye Diseases

If you have diabetes, regular eye examinations are important to detect and treat eye problems. These should be arranged by your diabetes health team as part of regular tests and screening.

High blood sugar (glucose) increases the risk of diabetes eye problems. In fact, it is the leading cause of blindness in adults aged 20 to 74.

Blurred vision can be a symptom of more serious eye problems with diabetes. The three major eye problems that people with diabetes may develop, and should be aware of are – cataracts, glaucoma, and retinopathy.

Kidney Disease

Causes of Renal FailureWith diabetes, the small blood vessels in the body are injured. When the blood vessels in the kidneys cannot clean your blood properly, your body will retain more water and salt than it should, which can result in weight gain and ankle swelling. You may also have protein in your urine. As well, waste materials will build up in your blood.

Diabetes may also cause damage to nerves in your body. This can give rise to difficulty emptying your bladder. The pressure resulting from your full bladder can back up and injure the kidneys. If urine remains in your bladder for a long time, you can develop an infection from the rapid growth of bacteria in urine that has a high sugar level.

About 30% of patients with Type 1 (juvenile onset) diabetes, and 10-40% of those with Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes, will eventually suffer from kidney failure.

The statistics seem grim, but trends are changing. There was a report recently that said kidney problems in diabetics were going down because of better control. You don’t have to get kidney disease. Like for other complications from diabetes, the better control you have, the better your chance of staying healthy.

Neuropathy is the Key Predictor for Amputation Risk

Aggressive screening for evidence of nerve damage and sensory loss (neuropathy), can identify diabetic patients at the highest risk for severe, disease-induced foot problems, such as ulcers. Left untreated, this complication puts advanced-stage patients on a path to a lower-limb amputation.   

The presence of neuropathy is the most critical predictor of which diabetic patients eventually will develop severe foot problems. Neurologic/vascular testing, combined with a thorough patient history, are the most useful tools to identify patients with neuropathy and the highest risk for crippling foot disorders.

Many foot and ankle complications associated with diabetes can be prevented or minimised with regular check-ups, along with daily patient inspections for sores, cuts and tiny puncture wounds.With early detection, doctors can institute measures to prevent foot deformity and eventual amputation. The ball is in your court!

Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!

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