Diabetes must be strictly managed in order to lower the associated health risks. Blood glucose needs to be closely monitored. A healthy diet and active lifestyle are essential.
In terms of the potential risks to health, there are five things to be aware of.
Approximately two thirds of diabetics die from diseases of the heart and blood vessels. This is because high blood sugar can cause blood vessels to thicken. This is made worse because diabetics are also more likely to have high cholesterol and hypertension. Therefore, it is advisable for blood pressure to be kept below 130/80. If necessary, beta blockers are prescribed. Statins may be given to lower cholesterol.
This is a leading cause of blindness in the western world. Over time, changes may occur in the blood vessels of the retina. High blood sugar is responsible. Eventually, the blood vessels can become blocked, which means the retina is deprived of oxygen.
It is essential eye examinations are carried out annually. Often there are no symptoms until the disease reaches an advanced stage. There is an excellent treatment success rate if disease is detected early.
More than half of diabetics eventually suffer some degree of nerve damage, known as neuropathy. It often takes the form of reduced sensation in the feet. There may be foot ulcers. Neuropathy is much more likely to occur if blood sugar levels are poorly controlled. The management of diabetes should include regular foot care, to prevent infections from becoming more severe. In some cases, amputation of the lower limbs is necessary.
Diabetes is the most common cause. About 30% of diabetics develop some degree of kidney disease. Usually this occurs after many years of diabetes. To begin with, there many be no symptoms. The tiny filtering units in the kidney gradually become damaged. A protein, known as albumin, will leak into the urine. As the albumin levels in the urine increase, the amount of kidney filtering decreases.
Essentially, the kidney loses its function. Therefore, diabetics are checked annually for kidney disease. The level of albumin in the urine is checked. Although there is no absolute cure for kidney disease, early detection means the disease progress can be slowed down considerably. The best prevention strategy is tight control of blood sugar and blood pressure.
Compared to the other associated health risks, dental problems may seem insignificant. However, research has shown there is a link between gum disease and heart disease.
As ever, good control of blood sugar is important. Diabetes compromises the body’s ability to fight infection, white blood cells are impaired. High sugar levels in saliva encourage gum disease.
People who control their diabetes and maintain a high standard of oral hygiene, can significantly reduce the likelihood of infections in the mouth.