Diabetes Complications

The Common Diabetes Complications - Acute Medical Problems

In the short term, diabetes can contribute to a number of acute complications.

  • Infections are often associated with diabetes, and are considered more serious as the body's normal ability to fight infections is reduced. To compound the problem, infections may worsen glucose control, which further delays recovery from infection.
  • Hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar, occurs from time to time in most people with diabetes. It results from taking too much diabetic medication or insulin (sometimes called insulin reaction), missing a meal, high stress, doing more exercise than usual, drinking too much alcohol or taking certain medications for other conditions.
  • It is very important to recognize hypoglycaemia and be prepared to treat it at all times. Headache, feeling dizzy, poor concentration, tremors of hands and sweating are common symptoms of hypoglycemia. You can faint or have a seizure if blood sugar level gets too low.
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious condition in which uncontrolled hyperglycaemia (usually due to complete lack of insulin or a relative deficiency of insulin) over time creates a buildup in the blood of acidic waste products called ketones.
  • High levels of ketones can be very harmful. This typically happens to people with Type 1 Diabetes who do not have good blood glucose control. Diabetic ketoacidosis can be precipitated by infection, stress, trauma and missing medications.
  • Hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic nonketotic syndrome is a serious condition in which the blood glucose levels get very high. The body tries to rid the excess blood sugar via the urine. This increases the urine volume and a test of the urine shows high levels of glucose in the urine. This syndrome typically occurs in people with Type 2 Diabetes who are not able to effectively control their blood sugar levels.

Long Term Diabetes Complications

Diabetes ultimately leads to high blood sugar levels, a condition called hyperglycaemia.

Over a long period of time, chronically elevated blood sugar levels damage the retina of the eye, the kidneys, nerves and blood vessels. It is therefore very important to control hyperglycaemia.

Some of the more severe complications of diabetes include:

  • Damage to the retina. Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness.
  • Damage to the kidneys. Diabetic nephropathy is a leading cause of kidney failure.
  • Damage to the nerves. Diabetic neuropathy is a leading cause of foot wounds and ulcers, which can lead to foot and leg amputations.
  • Damage to the nerves in the autonomic nervous system. This can lead to paralysis of the stomach (gastroparesis), chronic diarrhea, and an inability to control heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Diabetes accelerates atherosclerosis, or the formation of fatty plaques inside the arteries, which can lead to blockages or a clot (thrombus). This increases the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke, and decreases circulation in the arms and legs (peripheral vascular disease).
  • Diabetes can predispose you to high blood pressure, along with high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These independently and together with hyperglycemia increase the risk of heart disease, kidney disease and other vascular complications.

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