The Complications Of Diabetes
Diabetes is a challenge in itself, and it can lead to additional, sometimes very serious, health problems. But the good news is that you can delay or even prevent the appearance of many complications.
People living with diabetes are more prone to hypertension (or “high blood pressure”), which in turn increases their risk of developing other problems, such as heart disease and stroke. Lifestyle habits play a major role in preventing hypertension, as does being monitored by a healthcare professional.
Diabetes significantly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke due to several related factors such as hyperglycemia, hypertension, overweight and general lifestyle. However, you can (greatly!) reduce your risk by emphasizing prevention.
Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease and kidney failure in Canada, and up to 50% of people living with diabetes will eventually suffer kidney damage. Following your treatment plan, adopting a healthy lifestyle and stabilizing your blood glucose and blood pressure are all good ways to prevent problems.
Diabetes increases the risk of glaucoma, cataracts and retinal disorders (diabetic retinopathy). Damage can go as far as blindness and occur without any symptoms, which is why it’s important to undergo an eye exam once a year.
People living with diabetes are at greater risk of developing gum disease and having it progress more quickly. The problem can be ordinary (gingivitis) or more serious (periodontitis), which is why it’s important to visit your dentist at least twice a year.
In people living with diabetes, foot problems develop mostly when nerve damage occurs and affects sensitivity. In such situations, small foot injuries can become exacerbated or infected without causing any pain as the usual alarm signal. This is why it’s important to monitor the condition of your feet and take certain precautions (avoiding walking barefoot, wearing good shoes, etc.).
Diabetes often creates dry skin that is more prone to injuries and fungal or bacterial infections. Some complications, such as blisters, are relatively benign, but others require medical attention and appropriate medication. Any change in skin appearance should be brought to the attention of a healthcare professional.
Diabetes can cause sexual problems in both men and women by messing with blood glucose management or testosterone levels. Maintaining a healthy weight, stable blood glucose and a good diet greatly limits the risks, but several treatments are also available to restore a fulfilling sex life.
The hyperglycemia often associated with diabetes can damage nerves and therefore change your perception of pain. If you experience a loss of sensitivity or a tingling sensation, for example, make sure you discuss it with a health care professional.
Nearly 10% of people living with diabetes will one day experience major depression, and about 30% of people living with diabetes will experience some symptoms of it. Living with diabetes brings its share of difficulties, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes. But don’t suffer in silence—if you’re not feeling OK, speak up.
Note – The material presented here is for informational purposes only and does not replace your physician’s advice. Diabetes can also cause other complications.
American Diabetes Association (n.d). Skin Complications. Retrieved from: https://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/skin-complications.html. Accessed August 11 2021.
American Diabetes Association (n.d). Foot Complications. Retrieved from: https://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/foot-complications/?referrer=https://www.google.ca/. Accessed August 11 2021.
American Diabetes Association (n.d). Neuropathy (Nerve Damage). Retrieved from: https://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/neuropathy/. Accessed August 11 2021.
American Diabetes Association (n.d). Sex and Diabetes. Retrieved from: https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/complications/sex-diabetes. Accessed August 11 2021.
American Diabetes Association (n.d). Kidney Disease (Nephropathy). Retrieved from: https://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/kidney-disease-nephropathy.html?referrer=https://www.google.ca/. Accessed August 11 2021.
American Diabetes Association (n.d). Conquer high blood pressure. Retrieved from: https://www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/lower-your-risk/bloodpressure.html?referrer=https://www.google.ca/. Accessed August 11 2021.
American Diabetes Association (n.d). Understanding diabetes and mental health. Retrieved from: https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/mental-health?referrer=https%3A/.... Accessed August 11 2021.
Canadian Diabetes Association (n.d). Heart Disease & Stroke. Retrieved from: https://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/complications/heart-disease-stroke. Accessed August 11 2021.
Diabetes Québec (2019). Diabetes complications. Retrieved from: http://www.diabete.qc.ca/en/understand-diabetes/all-about-diabetes/complications/diabetes-complications/. Accessed August 11 2021.
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