Diabetes Complications

Diabetes is one of the deadliest diseases when left uncontrolled. While diabetes is not a direct cause of death, an uncontrolled diabetes diagnosis can lead to many complications that can lead to death. Diabetes affects your immune system, your blood circulation, your kidneys, and more. Here are some complications that uncontrolled diabetes can lead to.

  • Cardiovascular disease: Diabetes can dramatically increase the risk of cardiovascular problems such as coronary artery disease (angina), cardiac arrest (heart attack), stroke, and the narrowing of the arteries affecting blood circulation.
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy): Excess sugar in your blood can injure the walls of tiny blood vessels (capillaries), especially in your legs. This leads to tingling, numbness, burning, or pain in the limbs (mostly the feet). Left untreated, you could lose all sense of feeling and your limb might need to be amputated.
  • Foot damage: Nerve damage or poor blood flow can increase the risk of foot complications. Untreated cuts and blisters can develop infections that often heal poorly. This may require toe, foot, or even leg amputation.
  • Kidney damage (nephropathy): The kidneys filter waste from your blood. Diabetes can damage the filtering system by overworking it as the kidneys try to filter all the excess sugar from your blood. This can lead to kidney failure and the need for dialysis or even a kidney transplant.
  • Eye damage (retinopathy): Diabetes can damage the blood vessels in your retina. Excess sugar in your blood vessels can injure the walls and cause the blood vessels to burst. It can also cause blindness and increase the risk of cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Skin conditions: Diabetes may leave you susceptible to skin problems if you have open wounds. Open wounds for diabetics tend to heal slower than non-diabetics leaving you vulnerable to bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Hearing impairment is more common in people with diabetes.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: Diabetes increases the risk of dementia. The poorer the control of your blood sugar, the greater risk you have of contracting dementia.
  • Depression: Common amongst Type 1 and 2 diabetics, depression can affect diabetes management.
  • Ketoacidosis and ketones: This can lead to a diabetic coma. This is caused when your cells don’t get the glucose needed for energy so the body burns fat for energy, this produces ketones. Ketones are chemicals used to break down the fat for energy. When there is not enough insulin to use glucose for energy the ketones go to work, however, this leads to a build-up of ketones in the blood making it more acidic. High levels of ketones can become poisonous to your body and lead to ketoacidosis. The goal is to burn fat, but not as your main source of energy otherwise you’ll have high levels of glucose and ketones in your blood reacting with each other.
  • High blood pressure: A healthy blood pressure is below 120/80, prehypertension is 120/80 to 140/90, high blood pressure is above 140/90. Your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your blood vessels increasing the risk of stroke or heart attack.

This is a list of just some of the complications that diabetes can lead to when your diabetes is left uncontrolled. The goal for diabetics is to keep your blood sugar under control and get your A1C to a reasonable number (as determined by your doctor). If you can do that, you can keep from these very serious complications. Who knows, maybe you could even reverse your diabetes?


Mayo Clinic

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