Diabetes is a complex condition, if left untreated over a long period of time, the high glucose levels in the blood can seriously damage the heart, eyes, feet and kidneys. These are known as the complications of diabetes.
The best protection against developing anything is to keep glucose levels in range and to keep up to date with check-ups to catch anything as early as possible.
What causes diabetes complications?
High blood glucose levels over a long period of time can seriously damage blood vessels. If blood vessels aren’t working properly then blood can’t travel to parts of the body. This results in damage to the:
• large blood vessels (called macrovascular complications) which affects the heart, brain and legs
• small blood vessels (microvascular complications) causing problems in the eyes, kidneys, feet and nerves
Damage to the blood vessels can also mean the nerves won’t work properly either, therefore some people will develop numbness in parts of the body.
Many diabetes related complications don’t show up until a person has had diabetes for many years, sometimes decades, which is why attending regular check-ups are so important to catch the signs early.
What are the different types of diabetes related complications?
Complications can be split into two categories, acute and chronic.
- Hypos – when your blood sugars are too low
- Hypers – when your blood sugars are too high
- Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) – a life-threatening emergency where the lack of insulin and high blood sugars leads to a build-up of ketones.
- Eye problems (retinopathy)
- Heart attack and stroke
- Kidney problems (nephropathy)
- Nerve damage (neuropathy)
- Gum disease and other mouth problems
If you have chronic complications
You’re more at risk of developing other complications if you already have one chronic complication. So, if the blood vessels are damaged in the feet for example, the damage can happen to other parts of the body like the heart too. It’s even more important to stay on top of health checks and blood glucose levels.
How do I prevent or delay complications?
Diabetes related complications can be prevented or delayed through good diabetes management.
Keep a close eye on your child’s blood glucose levels and educate them on the importance of good diabetes management when they are old enough to manage the condition themselves. We know it’s not always as simple as it sounds, but we’re here to help.