Complications of Diabetes

Diabetes damages nerves and blood vessels found everywhere in the body. Diabetes complications fall into three general categories:

1. Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathies are a group of nerve disorders that lead to numbness and possibly pain and weakness in the hands, arms, feet and legs. Problems can also occur in the digestive system, heart, and sex organs.

Around one half of people with diabetes have some degree of nerve damage. However, not everyone experiences physical symptoms. Neuropathies are more common in people who have had diabetes for at least 25 years, who are overweight, have poor blood glucose control, and have high blood pressure. The most common type is peripheral neuropathy, which affects the arms and legs. This type of nerve damage causes numbness in the feet. This increases the chance of foot injuries, which, if left untreated, can lead to amputation.

2. Macrovascular Disease

High blood glucose in a diabetic can lead to hardening of the arteries. This can lead to a heart attack, stroke or poor circulation in the feet.

The leading cause of diabetes-related deaths is heart disease. Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about 2 to 4 times higher than adults without diabetes. The risk of stroke is also 2 to 4 times greater for people with diabetes.

3. Microvascular Disease

High blood glucose in a diabetic can also thicken capillary walls, making blood stickier. Small blood vessels ‘leak’. Together, these effects reduce blood circulation to the skin, arms, legs, and feet. Circulation to the eyes and kidneys can also be affected. In addition, reduced capillary blood flow may cause some brown patches on the legs.

By controlling blood glucose, many of these complications can be minimized.

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