The more I've gotten a chance to talk with diabetics, the more I come to realize how few truly understand the disease itself. They know what medications to take, but don't know how what happened happened. Or the underlying mechanisms deserving their attention.
This is a problem.
So I've taken it upon myself to begin educating diabetics on... diabetes. What a concept!?
Because when left unchecked, diabetes can lead to serious health complications, including damage to entire organ systems in the body. Here, we'll take a closer look at those systems diabetes is famous for meddling in.
High blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. This damage, known as diabetic retinopathy, can lead to vision loss and blindness if left untreated. Additionally, people with diabetes are more prone to developing cataracts, a condition that causes the lens of the eye to become cloudy, and glaucoma, a condition that damages the optic nerve.
Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease, also known as diabetic nephropathy. High blood sugar levels can damage the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, impairing their ability to filter waste and excess fluids from the blood. This can lead to kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to treat.
The pancreas and the liver have stronger ties than anyone acknowledges. The discourse between the two involves the timely release of glucagon in times of hypoglycemia, as well as the storage and release of precious vitamins and minerals that help regulate blood sugars.
High blood sugar levels can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition in which excess fat builds up in the liver. In severe cases, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can progress to liver scarring, known as fibrosis, and even liver failure.
Diabetes can impact digestive health in several ways. High blood sugar levels can cause damage to the nerves in the digestive system, leading to digestive issues such as constipation or diarrhea. Additionally, people with diabetes are more prone to developing a type of digestive tract infection called gastroparesis, in which the muscles of the stomach fail to contract properly and move food through the digestive system.
Most diabetics are also diagnosed with GI conditions. Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease are all common co-diagnoses with diabetes.
Diabetes can also affect foot health. High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels and nerves in the feet, leading to a loss of feeling and reduced blood flow. This can make it more difficult for cuts or sores to heal, increasing the risk of infections. The elevated sugar in the blood can also serve as precious food for pathogens like gangrene. People with diabetes are also more prone to developing foot deformities such as bunions or hammertoes.
Neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can occur in people with diabetes. It can affect various parts of the body, including the feet, legs, hands, and arms. Diabetic neuropathy can cause a range of symptoms, including numbness, tingling, and pain in the affected areas. In severe cases, it can lead to muscle weakness and difficulties with balance and coordination. So understand diabetes is a condition that can have serious health consequences if left unchecked. My fear is that most diabetics think treating their condition involves pretending like it doesn't exist.
Take this as notice that it will introduce itself if you don't give it a proper welcome.