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Complications of Diabetes

If left untreated, Type I diabetes can result in diabetic coma or death. A diabetic coma is a state of unconsciousness caused by extremely high levels of glucose in the blood. In both Type I and Type II diabetes, blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood fats must be well-controlled to prevent possible development of blindness, kidney failure, and heart disease. About 20-30% of people with diabetes develop a kidney condition called diabetic nephropathy.

Blockage of tiny blood vessels

Blockage of tiny blood vessels in the body is also a dangerous complication. When blood vessels of the eye are affected, it can result in retinopathy, the breakdown of the lining at the back of the eye. When the kidney is affected it is called nephropathy, the inability of the kidney to properly filter body toxins.

Diabetes mellitus may also cause loss of feeling, particularly in the lower legs. This numbness may prevent a person from feeling the pain or irritation of a break in the skin or foot infection until it is too late, possibly necessitating amputation of the foot or leg. Burning pain, sensitivity to touch, and coldness of the foot, conditions collectively known as neuropathy, can also occur. Blockages of large blood vessels in diabetic persons can lead to many problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Although these conditions also occur in nondiabetic individuals, they appear at a higher rate and often at a younger age in persons with diabetes. Other complications include higher risk pregnancies in diabetic women and a greater occurrence of dental disease.

Some very specific Complications of Diabetes are:

  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Retinopathy
  • Dental Problems
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Delayed Stomach Emptying
  • Stroke
  • Heart Disease
  • Blood Vessel Problems
  • Nerve Damage (usually occurs in people who have had diabetes for 25+ years)
  • Kidney Damage
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hyperglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Ketoacidosis
  • Diabetic Coma
  • Hyperglycemia Nonketotic Syndrome
  • Infections
  • Blurred Vision
  • Lower resistance to Infection
  • Foot Complications
  • Skin Complications

Diabetes and Heart Disease

Diabetes increases the risk for hardening of the arteries, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. This occurs because diabetes changes body chemistry. As a result, blood may clot too easily, blood vessels may narrow, and fat may build up in the blood vessels faster. Symptoms include poor circulation, frequent infections, itchy skin, legs that become shiny and lose their hair, calves that hurt during exercise (beyond the expected muscle ache caused by exertion). 

Men have an added symptom: trouble having an erection. High blood pressure and cholesterol levels signals that a person has a higher risk for heart or blood vessel damage.

Bad News About Diabetes

Diabetics are at high risk for cardiovascular disease and have three times the normal risk of dying from a stroke. Diabetes is also the leading cause of adult blindness in the United States and the single leading cause of kidney failure and non-traumatic amputations.

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