People with diabetes are at greater risk for problems that involve damage to small blood vessels and nerves due to high levels of glucose in the blood. They are also at a greater risk of developing hardening of large arteries (atherosclerosis), which can result in a heart attack, stroke, or poor blood flow to the legs.
Damage to small blood vessels can affect the eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Damage to eyes, specifically the retina, is called diabetic retinopathy and is the leading cause of blindness. Damage to the kidneys, called diabetic nephropathy, can lead to kidney failure and the need for dialysis. Damage to the nerves that supply the legs and arms and gastrointestinal tract is called diabetic neuropathy. Some people with diabetes who develop peripheral neuropathy (damage to the nerves in the legs) and have poor blood flow to the legs may eventually need an amputation.
If blood glucose levels become very high, especially when there are other stresses such as an infection, people with type 2 diabetes may become confused, dizzy, and have seizures. This can lead to a condition called non-ketonic hyperglycemia-hyperosmolar coma and requires immediate medical attention.
When blood sugar levels remain high for several hours, dehydration and more serious complications can develop. Moreover, even mild hyperglycemia (a fasting blood sugar over 109 mg/dL in adolescents/adults or over 100 mg/dL in children before puberty) – when unrecognized or inadequately treated for several years – can damage multiple tissues in the brain, kidneys, and arteries. When hyperglycemia is associated with the presence of ketones in the urine, this state demands immediate medical attention. When blood sugar levels rise and stay high (over 165 mg/dL consistently) for days to weeks, diabetes should be suspected and must be treated. High blood sugar level fluctations occur daily in people with diabetes. It is important to control blood sugar levels through diet, exercise, and medication (if prescribed), to know the symptoms of elevated blood sugar, and to seek treatment, when necessary.
Fortunately, the complications of diabetes can be prevented, delayed, or slowed by controlling blood glucose levels to as close to the normal range as possible.

Type 1 Diabetes Complications:

The complications that could arise with type 1 diabetes are a reality of this condition. If you have type 1 diabetes you already know that there is much to do on a daily basis to manage it well. In fact, it’s relatively easy to focus on the tasks at hand and lose sight of the potential consequences associated with diabetes. There are both potential short-term and long-term complications that can arise with diabetes.

Short-term complications:

  • Hypoglycemia
    Hypoglycemia is when blood glucose levels drop to a dangerously low level, usually as a result of not eating enough and possibly combined with taking too much insulin or exercising too much. If this condition is not treated quickly it can result in a medical emergency.
  • Hyperglycemia
    Hyperglycemia is when blood glucose levels are too high. If prolonged, it could lead to a condition called ketoacidosis (DKA, which occurs when the body does not have enough insulin and uses stored body fat as an alternative source of fuel. This toxic state can lead to coma and possibly death.

Long-term complications:

Although there is still a lot we don’t fully understand about diabetes, one thing is certain: high blood sugar over the long-term puts you at greater risk for a number of health problems. These include long-term complications that could affect:
  • Eyes: Diabetes puts you at greater risk for retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts.
  • Kidneys: High blood pressure, which is common in people with diabetes, increases the risk of kidney disease.
  • Heart and Blood Vessels: High cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose levels damage the heart and blood vessels leaving you susceptible to heart disease and stroke.
  • Feet: Nerve damage can cause a loss of sensation in the feet making one less aware of pain or discomfort. This may lead to injury such as a blister or more severe wound that is difficult to heal.
  • Teeth and Gums: High levels of glucose in blood can create a greater concentration of sugar in the saliva. This contributes to plaque build-up and gum disease.

Type 2 Diabetes Complications:

Type 2 diabetes can be easy to ignore, especially in the early stages when you’re feeling fine. But diabetes affects many major organs, including heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Controlling blood sugar levels can help prevent these complications.
Although long-term complications of diabetes develop gradually, they can eventually be disabling or even life-threatening.
Some of the potential complications of diabetes include:
  • Heart and blood vessel disease – Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina), heart attack, stroke, narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and high blood pressure. In fact, according to a 2007 study, the risk of stroke more than doubles within the first five years of being treated for type 2 diabetes. About 75 percent of people who have diabetes die of some type of heart or blood vessel disease, according to the American Heart Association.
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy) – Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish the nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upward. Poorly controlled blood sugar can eventually cause you to lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs. Damage to the nerves that control digestion can cause problems with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. For men, erectile dysfunction may be an issue.
  • Kidney damage (nephropathy) – The kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessel clusters that filter waste from the blood. Diabetes can damage this delicate filtering system. Severe damage can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant.
  • Eye damage – Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy), potentially leading to blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of other serious vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Foot damage – Nerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various foot complications. Left untreated, cuts and blisters can become serious infections. Severe damage might require toe, foot or even leg amputation.
  • Skin and mouth conditions – Diabetes may leave you more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial and fungal infections. Gum infections also may be a concern, especially if you have a history of poor dental hygiene.
  • Osteoporosis – Diabetes may lead to lower than normal bone mineral density, increasing risk of osteoporosis.
  • Alzheimer’s disease – Type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. The poorer the blood sugar control, the greater the risk appears to be. So what connects the two conditions? One theory is that cardiovascular problems caused by diabetes could contribute to dementia by blocking blood flow to the brain or causing strokes. Other possibilities are that too much insulin in the blood leads to brain-damaging inflammation, or lack of insulin in the brain deprives brain cells of glucose.
  • Hearing problems – Diabetes can also lead to hearing impairment.

Gluxus Team’s Recommendations:

The good news is that managing diabetes well on a consistent basis can help delay or even prevent most, if not all, of these complications. Some of the most important research studies to date have shown that good glucose control over a long period of time is the best weapon against future health complications. It’s simply a matter of being educated on what good diabetes management entails and then sticking to it every day. The fours pillars of effective management of type 1 diabetes include:
  • Taking insulin as prescribed
  • Following a food plan
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Consistent glucose testing
Balancing glucose levels with the first three is your daily challenge. Testing blood regularly is one way of measuring your progress. But it’s important to realize that some days glucose levels will be higher than other days. The goal is to keep it in the target range as often as possible.