5 life-changing complications
Today, 26 million Americans are living with diabetes. In Monterey County, the statistics are just as dire: More than half the population has diabetes or prediabetes.
Managing the disease is crucial because diabetes can put you at risk of a variety of life-changing complications, including kidney failure, heart diseases, or even blindness. Here are five common complications:
About one in four people with diabetes has kidney disease. People with unmanaged diabetes may have high levels of glucose in their blood, which can damage blood vessels and lead to kidney disease.
This makes it difficult for your body to filter waste products from your blood and could eventually require dialysis or even a kidney transplant to restore function.
Your risk of having a stroke is two-to-four times greater if you have diabetes. Increased fatty deposits in your arteries can narrow or block blood vessels
in the brain or neck, cutting off the blood supply, stopping oxygen from getting to the brain and causing a stroke.That risk increases if you’re overweight, have heart disease, high blood pressure, or a variety of other risk factors.
Heart attack and cardiovascular disease
Over time, high blood glucose from diabetes may damage blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart. The longer you have diabetes, the higher the chances that you will develop heart disease. People with diabetes have a 1.8 times greater risk of having a heart attack.
Other risk factors for heart disease complications include obesity and belly fat, higher than normal cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, smoking, excessive alcohol use, and family history.
Eye damage and blindness
Diabetes increases your risk of eye damage and disease, which can lead to blindness in one or both eyes. Complications include:
- Glaucoma – 40 percent increase in risk for people with diabetes
- Cataracts – 60 percent increase in risk for people with diabetes
Diabetes can also cause vision loss through retina disorders, such as macular edema, where fluid leaks into your eyes through capillaries, or proliferative retinopathy, when blood vessels block your vision by distorting your retina.
Foot or leg amputation
In some cases, diabetes leads to peripheral artery disease (PAD), causing blood vessels to narrow and reducing blood flow to legs and feet. It may also cause nerve damage, known as peripheral neuropathy, which may prevent you from feeling pain.
This can create a dangerous cycle: You may not feel pain from a foot sore or injury, so you don't treat it and it worsens, possibly becoming infected. Healing is slowed by the reduced blood flow and the infection may spread, causing significant damage that could eventually lead to amputation.
If the infection cannot be stopped or the damage is irreparable, amputation may be necessary. The most common amputations in people with diabetes are the toes, feet, and lower legs.
Prevention is key
The risks of not managing diabetes properly can be life-threatening. The good news is that, in many cases, diabetes can be prevented.
Get tested. People at high risk for developing diabetes should schedule an appointment with their doctor to see if they have diabetes or prediabetes. Don't have a doctor? You can find one using our doctor search.
Know your risk level. If you don’t know your risk level, you can take our short diabetes quiz. You’ll receive a risk level and next steps based on your results.
Manage properly. For people who have been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, management of the disease is key to reducing the risk of developing complications. Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula offers a variety of classes that can help, covering nutrition, exercise, and disease management. We also offer an in-depth diabetes self-management series, which may be covered by insurance with a doctor's referral.
Whatever your risk factor or diagnosis, Community Hospital’s dedicated team of doctors and certified diabetes educators provides the guidance and tools you need.