Diabetes consequences

This article was endorsed by Irene Mazzuca - Doctor of Medicine from the University of Rome "La Sapienza"

What diseases causes poorly controlled diabetes?

What are the consequences of diabetes?

The consequences or complications of diabetes are a whole series of disorders and diseases that have been associated with the progression of the disease.

blood glucose control
Blood glucose control, something fundamental that people with diabetes must do regularly.

Diabetes disease prognosis

Depending on the type of diabetes and other factors that accompany it (age, levels of glycated hemoglobin, lifestyle, …), there is a greater or lesser risk of suffering from these diseases.

Childhood diabetes is the one that can present more risks due to the evolution time of the disease throughout life.

In any case, a healthy diet and lifestyle, together with the medical and dietary-nutritional control of diabetes, improve the patient’s quality of life and can prevent many of these complications.

Acute consequences of diabetes

Acute complications are those that can occur at specific times during the life of a person with diabetes. These are not predictable and can become very serious, requiring immediate medical attention.

Slide-summary with the main acute complications of diabetes.

  • Growth retardation: Insulin affects growth hormone. Poorly controlled childhood diabetes can cause growth retardation.
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis: It is usually the first symptom that discovers childhood diabetes, and in the worst cases it can cause death. Ketoacidosis occurs when the body uses fats as an energy source, because it cannot use glucose (insulin deficiency). The first few days there is polyuria (urinating more often), polydipsia (drinking more fluids), anorexia, or lack of appetite. If the situation persists for many days, it can affect the nervous system causing drowsiness or even diabetic coma that can cost the person’s life.
  • Diabetic hyperosmolar hyperglycemic syndrome or hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state: It is an acute metabolic disorder characterized by extremely high levels of glucose in the blood. This situation causes a high loss of fluid and electrolytes in the urine, which in turn causes a strong imbalance in the body. The blood volume decreases (due to osmolarity), which can carry serious health risks, from tachycardia, kidney failure, or cardio-respiratory arrest in the worst cases. It usually appears to people over 60 years old and one of the symptoms is extreme tiredness, paleness, hypotension, cold skin or dry skin.

Chronic consequences of diabetes

The chronic consequences of diabetes are those conditions that appear in the long term as a consequence of the evolution of the disease and the prolongation of the metabolic state caused by diabetes. These consequences tend to appear increasingly early due to sedentary lifestyle, obesity, stress and poor diet that is promoted in today’s societies (obesogenic environment).

Can the consequences of diabetes be avoided?

The chronic consequences of diabetes have the advantage that their evolution will depend on the degree of compliance with the medical and nutritional treatment followed by the patient with diabetes, therefore, in many cases they are preventable and controllable.

In contrast, when the disease is uncontrolled, medical and dietary guidelines are not followed, or the lifestyle is inadequate, these complications occur at an earlier age, reducing the quality of life of the person.

Slide-summary with some chronic complications of diabetes.

List of diseases caused by diabetes

Some of these complications are silent diseases, that is, their evolution goes unnoticed and when serious symptoms appear it is already well advanced. An example is arteriosclerosis, which is the deposition of atheroma plaques in the arteries that makes circulation difficult, and which without warning can cause thrombosis.

Many diseases related to diabetes have been described:

Decreased quality of life: Problems with normal life (family, relationships, work), with the psychological and economic repercussions that this entails (depression, anxiety, insomnia, compulsive eating, etc.).

  • Cardiocirculatory diseases and cardiovascular accidents (diabetic macroangiopathy)
  • Retinopathy
  • Diabetic neuropathy: loss of sensitivity of the extremities, increased risk of dementia
  • Diabetic foot, thrombosis, diabetic gangrene, and limb amputation
  • Increased risk of cancer

Diabetes heart disease

Cardiovascular diseases are caused by damage to the veins, arteries and capillaries that progressively produce high blood sugar levels and hyperglycemia, which causes insulin dysfunction, or, in non-diabetic subjects, poor diet (rich in sugars, excess flour and ultra-processed food).

The walls of the blood vessels (veins, arteries, and capillaries) harden, narrow, and become brittle, making circulation difficult. This is worsened if there is high cholesterol since, in addition to hardened arteries, atheroma plaque can be deposited in these, narrowing them even more. In general, its evolution can be slowed down and its prognosis improves considerably with good control of blood sugar levels.

Arteriosclerosis (atheroma plaque that ends up clogging the arteries) appears in the patient with diabetes more frequently and at an earlier age compared to the non-diabetic patient, and is caused by diabetic macroangiopathy, that is, by the alterations that occur in diabetic arteries.

One of the early symptoms of this circulatory disease appears in the feet, which can have dry skin, paleness and be cold; or leg pain when walking.

Diabetic macroangiopathy

Diabetes can present with hypertension and presents a high risk of vascular accident (heart attack, embolism, cerebral thrombosis, etc.) due to the risk posed by the poor condition of the cardiocirculatory system (diabetic macroangiopathy).

Diabetic retinopathy and diabetic nephropathy

The poor state of the cardiovascular system carries an increased risk that small hemorrhages may occur due to the rupture of some vessels, especially the capillaries. Capillaries are the tiny vessels responsible for supplying all body tissues. When they narrow and their walls harden, the irrigation and, therefore, the nutrition of some tissues are cut off, with their direct effects on health.

This is the case of diabetic retinopathy (damage to the eyes), because the sight contains numerous capillaries. When it affects the blood supply to the kidneys, it is diabetic kidney disease (damage to the kidneys).

Diabetic gangrene and limb amputation

diabetes foot
Diabetes can lead to diabetic foot and can lead to amputation of the extremities where poor circulation has produced much irreparable damage.

There is a possibility that a major artery will become blocked and an extremity may be left without blood supply (thrombosis in one leg), with the possible complication of gangrene.

Diabetic gangrene happens sometimes and has irreversible effects. In addition, there is a serious risk of infection, which, if it reaches the blood, could cause sepsis or a general infection of the entire organism, causing death.

Diabetic eye diseases

Diabetic retinopathy is the most widespread complication among people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It occurs as a consequence of the vascular damage mentioned above, which damages the eye tissues, causing serious deficiencies in their functioning, which end up causing loss of vision.

As the blood circulation is obstructed, the retina is less and less irrigated and this increases the risk of suffering more diseases. Some complications are: glaucoma, cataracts, retinal detachment or even blindness.

A suitable diet for diabetes, rich in beta-carotenes and zeaxanthin can help prevent or improve these conditions (eating raw and cooked carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, blueberries, pomegranate, blackberries, strawberry trees, etc.).

Diabetic neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is one of the most common complications in these patients that can appear in up to 50% of diabetics in adulthood. Excess glucose (high sugar and hyperglycemia, in case of inadequate diets) causes damage to the nerve endings. There is a decrease in the myelin sheath, which is in charge of protecting the nerves. It causes polyneuritis (involvement of several nerves in an area) and mononeuritis (which affects an isolated nerve).

Consequences of diabetic neuropathy

When the affected nerves belong to the autonomic nervous system, damage to nerves that control digestive, motor, muscle, or genital functions can occur. Depending on the affected system, it can appear: indigestion, constipation, fecal incontinence, urinary incontinence, urinary infections, erectile dysfunction, arrhythmia, etc.

Diabetic foot for diabetes

Diabetic foot comes from vessel damage and diabetic neuropathy, when this involvement occurs in the peripheral nerves of the feet.

Kidney failure caused by diabetes

Damage to the kidneys of the diabetic patient (diabetic nephropathy) is caused by poor blood circulation or lack of irrigation of these organs. One of the first symptoms is albuminuria (presence of albumin in the urine). This involvement is slow and progressive, and affects the majority of patients with type 1 diabetes in adulthood. Advanced disease causes kidney failure.

punto rojo More information on diabetes

Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

17 June, 2020

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