Understanding the long-term impact of living with diabetes

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Diabetes is a lifelong condition that affects millions of people around the world.

While managing blood sugar levels day-to-day is crucial, it’s equally important to understand the long-term effects that diabetes can have on the body.

This review explains, in simple terms, the broad range of complications that can arise from living with diabetes over many years, and offers insight into how these complications can be managed or prevented.

Heart and Blood Vessel Damage

One of the most significant long-term effects of diabetes involves the cardiovascular system. High blood sugar levels over time can lead to the damage of blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart.

People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology highlights that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke as people without diabetes. Managing cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and avoiding smoking can help mitigate these risks.

Kidney Damage (Nephropathy)

The kidneys are another major area affected by long-term diabetes. High blood sugar can damage the delicate filtering system of the kidneys, leading to a condition called diabetic nephropathy.

Over time, this can cause the kidneys to fail, requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant. According to the National Kidney Foundation, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure. Keeping blood sugar and blood pressure under control is critical for preventing kidney damage.

Nerve Damage (Neuropathy)

High blood sugar levels can also damage the nerves throughout the body, a condition known as neuropathy. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning, or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upwards.

For some people, these symptoms can be painful or lead to other serious problems such as foot infections. Neurology reports that over half of people with diabetes will develop some form of neuropathy. Effective sugar control and regular monitoring can help prevent or delay nerve damage.

Eye Damage

Diabetes increases the risk of several eye conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy, which results from damage to the blood vessels in the retina, is a leading cause of blindness.

Regular eye exams are essential for catching and treating these conditions early. Research in the Ophthalmology journal emphasizes that early detection and treatment of eye problems in diabetics can reduce the risk of blindness by 95%.

Foot Damage

Nerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various foot complications. Cuts and blisters can develop into serious infections that may ultimately require toe, foot, or leg amputation.

Diabetes-related foot problems can be prevented through good foot hygiene, regular check-ups, and wearing proper footwear.

Skin and Mouth Conditions

Diabetes may leave you more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial and fungal infections. Gum infections are also more common, given that high blood sugar can help bacteria grow.

The American Journal of Dermatology suggests that up to one-third of people with diabetes will have a skin disorder caused or affected by diabetes at some time in their lives. Regular dental check-ups and maintaining skin care can help manage these conditions.

Hearing Impairment

Studies, including those published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, show that hearing impairment is more common in people with diabetes.

High blood sugar levels can damage the nerves and blood vessels in the ears, leading to hearing loss. Regular hearing checks are recommended for those with diabetes.

In conclusion, while diabetes poses many challenges, most of the serious complications can be prevented or minimized through rigorous management of the condition.

This includes maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, regular monitoring and check-ups, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking. With careful management, individuals with diabetes can lead long, healthy lives.

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.

For more information about diabetes, please see recent studies that low calorie diets may help reverse diabetes, and 5 vitamins that may prevent complication in diabetes.

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