Common complications of type 2 diabetes you need to know

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Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how your body metabolizes sugar (glucose), an essential source of energy for your cells.

It’s characterized by insulin resistance, where the body’s cells don’t respond effectively to insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels.

While managing blood sugar is a cornerstone of controlling Type 2 diabetes, it’s also crucial to understand the broader impact it has on health.

This condition doesn’t exist in isolation and often comes with a suite of comorbidities — other medical conditions that occur alongside it.

This review aims to shed light on some common comorbidities of Type 2 diabetes, presenting research and evidence in an accessible way for everyone.

Heart and Blood Vessel Disease: Cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks, strokes, and the narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis), are significantly more common in individuals with Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes contributes to a higher risk of cardiovascular problems because high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart.

Studies have shown that people with diabetes are up to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases, underscoring the importance of heart health management in diabetic care.

Kidney Disease (Nephropathy): The kidneys’ filtering system can be damaged by the effects of high blood sugar, leading to a condition known as diabetic nephropathy.

This can progress to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, which may require dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Research indicates that about one-third of adults with diabetes have chronic kidney disease, highlighting the need for regular kidney function monitoring in diabetic patients.

Eye Complications: Diabetes can lead to a host of eye problems, including diabetic retinopathy (damage to the blood vessels in the retina), cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens), and glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye), which can result in vision loss.

Diabetic retinopathy is particularly concerning because it’s one of the leading causes of blindness in adults. Early detection through regular eye exams is critical for preventing severe eye complications.

Neuropathy: High blood sugar levels can injure nerve fibers throughout the body, but the legs and feet are often the most affected.

This nerve damage, known as neuropathy, can cause tingling, numbness, burning, or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upward.

For some, these symptoms can be painful or disabling, while others may have no symptoms at all. Approximately half of all people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage.

Mental Health Issues: The link between Type 2 diabetes and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, is increasingly recognized.

The stress of managing a chronic condition, along with the physical effects of high blood sugar on the brain, can contribute to these mental health challenges.

Studies suggest that people with diabetes have a greater risk of depression compared to those without diabetes, making mental health care an important component of diabetes management.

Sleep Apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep, is more common in people who are overweight or obese, a group that includes many with Type 2 diabetes.

Sleep apnea can worsen diabetes control and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Understanding and managing these comorbidities is a crucial part of living with Type 2 diabetes. It’s not just about controlling blood sugar levels but also about comprehensive care that addresses the whole person.

Regular screenings for heart disease, kidney function, eye health, and nerve damage, along with mental health support, can help manage the impact of Type 2 diabetes on overall health.

This holistic approach to diabetes care can improve quality of life and reduce the risk of complications, illustrating the importance of a coordinated care plan between patients and their healthcare teams.

If you care about diabetes, please read studies about Vitamin D and type 2 diabetes, and to people with diabetes, some fruits are better than others.

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