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Diabetic Complications - Feet - Eyes - Heart - Nerves - Hypo

Complications of being a diabetic can and almost certainly WILL arise when you do not look after your diabetes properly, be it type1 or type2 diabetes.   Without a proper diabetic control of blood glucose, you can suffer from these diabetic complications.  If you take a good control of your blood glucose levels eat right and exercise, these complications of diabetes need not arise.  Diabetic complications mainly arise when you do not monitor your blood glucose levels or let them run continuously high.  If you disregard your glucose levels, then complications of diabetes will surely appear. By monitoring and eating properly, you can delay these diabetic complications, such as damage to your;


  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Kidneys
  • Feet
  • Nerves
  • Heart
  • Blood vessels
  • Sexual function

 Eyes - What happens to my eyes and diabetes?  Diabetics risk the eye complication called diabetic retinopathy.  Diabetic retinopathy affects the tiny blood vessels that supply your retina and can become leaky, blocked and grow abnormally. You need to avoid diabetic retinopathy as your sight is valuable and with diabetic retinopathy, you could lose your sight.


Keeping your blood glucose levels under control can reduce the risk, although blood pressure and blood fat levels will also affect this.


Each year it is advised to get tour eyes screened.  This is done by visiting your health centre for a short eye test, this is different from the usual optometrist test, as the screening involves having pictures taken with a digital camera to view the backs of your eyes and the consultant can see the small vessels and look for any problems such as diabetic retinopathy.  Many opticians do this when dealing with their diabetic customers and is included with your eye test.


You may need to go and see the specialist at the hospital for them to investigate further.  If diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed and bleeding is out of control, you may need laser treatment which will prevent any growth of abnormal blood vessels.  Diabetic retinopathy laser treatment is different from the one that are widely advertised on T.V, as it cannot restore any vision loss.




Ears - It has been found that hearing loss affects more people who have diabetes than their counterparts. High blood glucose can affect the small vessels and nerves in the inner ear and can affect our hearing over time.
The Kidneys - Diabetes can affect the kidneys by damaging the small blood vessels which can become leaky or even stop working, this is called diabetic nephropathy. By keeping blood glucose levels at 4mmol/l or 72mg/dL and 6mmol/l or 108mg/dL before meals and 10mmol/I or 180mg/dL 2 hours after food can greatly reduce risks of kidney disease such as this diabetic nephrpathy.
You will be asked to bring a sample of urine (the first that you pass in the morning) to your annual check up.  This is to test the urine for protein called microalbuminuria. If you have signs of microalbuminuria in the sample, the doctor is likely to prescribe medication called an ACE inhibitor in tablet form. This medication will help to prevent nephropathy from getting worse.  If untreated, this could lead to kidney failure.
Feet/Nerves - The nerves carry messages from our brain to every part of our body, so we see, hear, smell and touch etc.
Diabetic neuropathy - A long term complication of diabetes is diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage that results from diabetic micro vascular disease and is increased if you have poor diabetes control. Diabetic nephropathy particularly affects the feet and legs.  You may feel numbness, pain or feelings of an altered sensation. This is why you should have your feet checked regularly by your chiropodist or Podiatrists. This type is known as 'Sensory neuropathy'. It is said that around 15% of all diabetics will develop some sort of problems with their feet and legs at some time and some of these could be of a serious nature.  If you do not care for your feet, then you have more chance of joining that 15% with diabetic neuropathy.



Autonomic neuropathy

Erectile dysfunction or Autonomic neuropathy affects nerves that control our automatic activities, such as actions by the stomach, intestines, bladder and penis and even the heart.


When autonomic neuropathy occurs in the stomach and intestines, altered bowel movements may occur such as bouts of intermittent constipation or diarrhoea.  Likewise, in the bladder, this can cause the inability to urinate.  This can feel like the bladder is never empty and can lead to incontinence.


Autonomic neuropathy affects the penis in a way which may cause erectile dysfunction or 'impotence'.  A person with ED can seek medical help from their doctor/physician.  There are various treatments that can be prescribed such as:


Medication comes in a tablet form such as Viagra and Cialis and herbal formulas.


Injection treatment is where you are taught to inject medicine into the base of the penis.


Urethral medicine in the form of a small pellet can be inserted into the tip of the penis.


Vacuum devices are where a plastic container with a pump is placed over the penis.  The pump then sucks air out of the container to create a vacuum which draws blood to the penis causing an erection.


Penile prosthesis. A surgeon can insert a rod permanently into the penis which keeps the penis erect all of the time.  Other devices include an inbuilt pump for when an erection is needed.


The cardiovascular system can be affected which may result in pains in the heart from being detected, thus the lack of warning signs to heart disease.


Motor neuropathy affect the nerves that send signals to our muscles and can sometimes cause muscle weakness but it is possible for people to recover from this condition over time.


It can also lead to foot deformities such as Charcot's foot, where there is a loss of sensation in the muscles causing bones to stress and break easily, which may not heal properly and thus becoming distorted.



Complications of diabetes - Hypoglycaemia

The most common of  diabetes complications that the diabetic has to cope with at some time or another is  the 'hypo' as it is a quite extensive subject, we have listed it on its own page here Hypoglycaemia

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