When you keep your blood sugar levels in control, you are not only taking control of your diabetes but you are also ensuring a healthy heart
Diabetes is not uncommon and a good endocrinologist can help you live with the condition through medication and proper diet. Nevertheless, once diagnosed with diabetes, one must be careful to keep a check on your blood sugar levels, in order to prevent complications that can bring down your quality of living and even prove fatal.
WHAT IS DIABETES?
Diabetes Mellitus is a condition when there is an abnormally high level of blood sugar due to the defects in insulin secretion. Diabetes, as it is commonly called, can be broadly classified into two types based on the cause for insufficient insulin production that spikes blood sugar levels.
WHAT ARE THE TWO TYPES OF DIABETES?
Type 1 Diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system produces antibodies that attack the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. This is more of a genetic variety of the disease.
Type 2 Diabetes is more common and occurs when the pancreas produces a lower than normal amount of insulin, which results in heightened blood sugar levels. Type 2 Diabetes is usually set off by lifestyle factors and genes. Being overweight and lacking in physical activity are triggers for Type 2 Diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes is the type of Diabetes that pregnant women are prone to. Certain hormones produced by the placenta lead to insulin resistance. However, usually the pancreas is able to produce enough insulin to overcome this, but in some cases other factors hinder the production of insulin causing the mom-to-be to acquire what is commonly called Gestational Diabetes. Since being overweight triggers Type 2 Diabetes, it’s better not to gain too much weight during pregnancy especially if you have a family history of diabetes.
COMPLICATIONS RELATED TO DIABETES
Increased blood sugar levels and lowered insulin, can impact one’s overall health and lead to other medical conditions if not treated appropriately.
DIABETES AND VISION PROBLEMS
Diabetes can lead to four types of eye problems: Retinopathy, Macular Edema, Glaucoma and Cataracts.
- Retinopathy: High blood sugar can damage the small cells at the back of the eyes, leading to a leakage of fluid into the inner lining of the eyes and eventually into the vitreous. Initial stages of Retinopathy show next to no symptoms, but you can save your vision if detected earlier on. Hence it is advisable to consult with an ophthalmologist periodically if you have diabetes. Symptoms of advanced Retinopathy include seeing dark spots or streaks. If left unchecked scar tissue might develop separating the retina from the back of the eye.
- Macular Edema: Retinopathy can lead to fluid leakage into the macular which is a vital part of the retina that helps with facial recognition, reading, etc. When the macular swells, it affects your vision – initially there is blurring but this could eventually lead to complete vision loss. Unchecked Diabetic Retinopathy almost always leads to Macular Edema.
- Glaucoma: This condition is caused by excessive pressure on the optic nerve. Initial stages of the disease might include blurry vision. Getting tested right away will definitely help save your eyesight. However in some cases the onset of the disease is apparent when the individual loses side vision, but most often this goes unnoticed in the early stages since the loss is gradual. If left untreated Glaucoma can lead to complete and permanent vision loss.
- Cataracts: A visibly cloud looking lens, is a sign of a cataract. This blocks light and vision becomes hazy. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels speed up the formation of cataracts. This can be cleared with surgery but diabetic retinopathy could worsen after the surgery. The sure fire way to avoid this and all other eye issues triggered by diabetes is to watch your blood sugar levels and visit the ophthalmologist regularly.
DIABETES AND HEART DISEASE
When you keep your blood sugar levels in control, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly you are not only taking control of your diabetes but you are also ensuring a healthy heart. Unchecked Diabetes makes you prone to two types of heart disease:
- Coronary artery disease where your coronary arteries are constricted by the buildup of plaques (Fatty deposits). Suddenly breaking of the plaque can cause a heart attack.
- Congestive heart failure is a condition where the heart loses its ability to pump blood effectively.
DIABETES AND KIDNEY DISEASE
Kidney damage caused by Diabetes is called Diabetic Nephropathy. High blood sugar levels can damage the part of the kidneys that filter the blood and proteins start to leak from the blood into the urine. As the scarring worsen the kidneys lose their ability to filter out waste from the blood. The waste buildup can reach toxic levels which can even lead to a coma. Diabetic Nephropathy must be treated aggressively through medication and controlling blood glucose levels.
DIABETES AND SKIN INFECTIONS
People with Diabetes are prone to certain types of skin infections – some more severe than the others.
- Bacterial Infections: This includes Styes (infections of the glands of the eyelid), Boils, Folliculitis, Carbuncles (deep infections of the skin and the tissue underneath) and infections around the nails. The most common infection causing bacteria is Staphylococcus. Bacterial infections can be prevented by good skin care but once infected, antibiotics will help contain the situation.
- Fungal Infections: People with diabetes are susceptible to Candida albicans infection. This yeast-like fungus causes itchy rashes in warm, moist folds of the skin such as under the breasts, between fingers and toes, corners of the mouth, in the armpits and the groin.Other common fungal infections to look out for include Jock’s Itch, Ringworm and Athlete’s Foot. A fungal infection typical of people with diabetes is Onychomycosis which occurs in the nails of the fingers and toes, leading to discoloration, thickening and even separation from the digit.
- Acanthosis nigricans: This is a skin condition common amongst those who have Type 2 Diabetes and are overweight. It presents as flat, raised brown patches on the sides of the neck, armpits and groin. To control the spread of the condition the only option is to lose weight. Topical creams can be used to lighten the patches.
- Shin spots or Diabetic Dermopathy: Changes to the blood vessels under the skin causes shiny round or oval lesions to appear on the shins. These patches are itchy or painful. There is no real need to treat them.
- Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum: This is a rare skin condition caused by diabetes. It is similar to Diabetic Dermapathy. The differences being the spots are fewer, larger, and deeper, and often painful and itchy. As long as they do not crack open or turn into blisters, there is no need for treatment.
- Digital sclerosis: Poor blood flow causes the skin on the toes, fingers, and hands to become taut, thick and waxy. Stiffness in the joints of the fingers is also common. This is called Digital Sclerosis and the only way to ease the condition is to get your blood sugar under control.
- When blood sugar levels are out of control this could lead to blisters on the fingers, hands, toes, feet and sometimes on legs or forearms. When your blood sugar level comes down, these sores go aways. Similarly uncontrolled diabetes can lead to Eruptive xanthomatosis, which causes firm, yellow, pea-like enlargements in the skin. These also go away when you get your blood sugar under control.
If you are diagnosed with either type of diabetes, it’s best to keep a regular check on you blood sugar by ensuring you follow your doctor’s advice. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to unnecessary complications in just about any part of the body. Watch what you eat, exercise regularly and take your medication religiously – this is all it takes to keep Diabetes under check.