Symptoms and Risks of Diabetes
People who have Type-2 diabetes experience a range of symptoms, and there are many long-term health risks associated with diabetes, especially if left untreated. Unfortunately, many people living with diabetes have symptoms which are mild enough to go unnoticed, and early detection of diabetes significantly decreases the risks of developing complications. Common symptoms of diabetes include:
- Having to urinate often
- Feeling very thirsty
- Feeling very hungry, although you are eating
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
- Weight loss, even though you are eating more (Type-1)
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands or feet (Type-2)
There are many health issues and complications which can be brought about by diabetes, especially if it is not treated over time. These include:
Skin Complications – Diabetes increases the chances of bacterial and fungal infections in the skin and can cause localized itching. There are also a range of diabetes-related skin conditions causing scaly patches of skin, blisters, bumps, and other rashes. With most of these skin complications, the most effective treatment is bringing blood sugar levels back under control.
Eye Complications – Diabetics are at elevated risk for eye complications, including glaucoma and cataracts. There is also a range of retinal disorders associated with diabetes, known as diabetic retinopathy. With retinopathy, the blood vessels in the back of the eye become blocked and damaged, leading to blurred vision or even full vision loss.
Neuropathy – About half of all people with diabetes can develop some form of nerve damage, known as neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy can cause tingling, pain, numbness, or weakness in the feet and hands. Autonomic neuropathy can lead to paralysis of the bladder, erectile dysfunction, diarrhea, and stomach issues. Other neuropathies lead to joint problems, double vision, carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle weakness and atrophy, pain, or other localized paralysis
Foot Complications – Neuropathy can cause a loss of feeling in the feet, and other foot-related diabetes complications include skin changes and dryness, callus development, foot ulcers, poor circulation, or even the need for foot amputation if treatment is not sought soon enough.
Ketoacidosis and Ketones – Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a serious condition which can cause diabetic coma or even death. Ketones are acids which build up in the blood when your body has insufficient insulin. When ketone levels are too high, it leads to DKA, which is more likely with type 1 diabetes.
Kidney Disease – Diabetes can cause damage to the kidneys, inhibiting their ability to filter out the blood or even causing them to fail. Kidney failure allows waste products to build up in the blood, necessitating dialysis (blood filtering) or in some cases a kidney transplant.
High Blood Pressure – Diabetics are also more at risk to develop high blood pressure, which forces your heart to work harder to pump your blood, increasing the risk for heart disease, stroke, and other problems. High blood pressure can be addressed with healthy dietary practices, making appropriate lifestyle changes, and with medications.
Stroke – Strokes are caused by an interruption in the blood supply to part of the brain, resulting in damage to the brain tissue. Most strokes occur because of blood clots blocking vessels in the brain or neck. Strokes are known to cause movement problems, pain, numbness, and problems with thinking, memory, or speaking. Emotional problems, such as depression, are also associated with having had a stroke. It is estimated that 70% of strokes are preventable by changing to a healthier diet, increasing physical activity, and quitting smoking.
Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic State – Also known as HHS, this condition is more common to older people with type-2 diabetes who are not working to control their diabetes. With this condition, elevation in blood sugar levels causes the body to pass excess sugar into the urine, leading to frequent urination and eventually dehydration. HHS is life threatening, and immediate medical attention is necessary.
Gastroparesis – With gastroparesis, the stomach takes too long to empty its contents as a result of nerve damage affecting the digestive system. This can also make it more difficult to manage blood glucose levels. Gastroparesis can lead to bacterial overgrowth and sometimes the formation of solid masses of food called bezoars. Gastroparesis can cause nausea, vomiting, and in some cases an obstruction of the stomach or small intestine.
Heart Disease – People with diabetes have more than double the risk of having heart attacks or strokes than people without diabetes, and two out of every three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. It is therefore important to compensate for this risk by making appropriate healthy dietary and lifestyle changes.
Mental Health – A variety of emotions can follow a new diagnosis of diabetes. One of the most difficult things to come to terms with is the fact that diabetes is a lifelong condition. Negative emotions can include feelings of stress, sadness, anger, and denial and can lead to depression. Emotional and social support from family, friends, and healthcare providers can help you cope with a diagnosis of diabetes and get you on track to managing the condition successfully.
Pregnancy – There are a range of precautions that people with diabetes must take when trying to conceive and becoming pregnant. The majority of these precautions involve keeping your blood glucose levels within a precise target range to avoid complications. There is also a form of diabetes, known as gestational diabetes, which can affect women during pregnancy, which can increase the chances of a high birth weight or of the child becoming overweight or diabetic later in life.