Diabetes is a chronic disease that requires lifelong management. Unmanaged diabetes can lead to severe fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which then impact the heart, brain, kidneys, eyes, feet, and mental health. This means that if you do not take care to manage your diabetes, long-term risks that adversely affect your health can develop. This mainly happens because high blood sugar can cause quite a bit of damage to the blood vessels, due to which oxygenated blood does not reach the organs it is supposed to. In this article, we will understand some of the common long-term risks of Type 2 diabetes and the way they can harm your body. We will also look at a few prevention methods for the same.
1. Cardiovascular Disease:
One of the lifestyle factors that puts you at a risk of developing diabetes is obesity. When you have diabetes, the excess weight continues to clog your arteries. At the same time, continued blood vessel damage leads to high blood pressure. As a result, your heart becomes overworked and has higher chances of failing. Thus, excess weight leads to cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
A key prevention method is to lose weight. Losing only 10-15 kgs can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases significantly, and can also help you keep your diabetes in check.
2. Kidney Damage:
High blood sugar almost always affects the vessels in the kidneys. Due to this, your body cannot excrete waste correctly, and you end up losing nutrition through urine. One of the key indicators of kidney damage is the presence of the protein albumen in the urine
Diabetes patients are required to undergo regular protein albumen blood tests. Continued damage to the kidneys can lead to kidney failure, which is a chronic disease and one of the long-term risks of type 2 Diabetes that can be fatal.
3. Nerve Damage:
High levels of blood sugar also damages the small capillaries in the body that are required for nourishing your nerves with fresh blood. Due to this, patients develop nerve damage if they do not keep their blood sugar in check. This begins with a tingling sensation in the fingers that moves upwards. Unchecked nerve damage can cause loss of sensitivity in their limbs. Furthermore, if the nerves in the digestive system are damaged, patients can experience diarrhoea, vomiting, constipation or nausea. Men may experience erectile dysfunction if the damage occurs in penile nerves.
4. Diabetic Foot:
When people think of diabetes and long-term risks, damage to the foot generally comes to mind. Poor blood flow in the legs and feet lead to a lack of feeling, and high susceptibility to blisters or cuts that become infected
As these cuts heal poorly, it can lead to infection and blood poisoning. Ultimately, it leads to the foot being amputated if it spreads. Frequently checking your feet for cuts and damage can help prevent this from happening.
The long-term effects of diabetes on the brain include an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Research on the same shows that the higher a patient’s blood sugar levels, the higher the risk of developing these issues. The link between the two is unclear as of now.
Depression is quite common in people who suffer from type 2 diabetes. It is also one of the long-term risks of Type 1 diabetes. Depression is a serious condition that must be managed effectively. Poor depression management can lead to poorer diabetes management as the patient may resort to:
- snacking on comfort food
- may not check blood sugar levels often enough,
- or may stop caring about his/her health
Talk therapy and medication are two ways to manage it. However, you must tell your therapist about your diabetes medication, long-term effects, and any other issues you may be suffering from. This way, they can ensure that the medication they give you does not clash with the medication you are already on.
7. Hearing Problems:
Another long-term risk of type 2 diabetes is the gradual loss of hearing. As different patients react differently to health problems, some patients may notice a lack of hearing early in life, while others may notice it as they age.
8. Eye Damage (Diabetic Retinopathy):
High blood sugar damages the small vessels in the eyes, which can lead to blindness. This condition is known as retinopathy and the only way to prevent it is to control the patient’s blood sugar levels before this condition develops.
9. Skin Problems
Diabetes can also leave patients susceptible to many bacterial and fungal skin problems, along with a slow healing of the same.
Unconventional Diabetes and Long-Term Risks
When talking about diabetes and long-term risks, one must also take into account unconventional forms of diabetes and how it affects patients.
Many women develop gestational diabetes when they are pregnant and they must focus on managing the disease properly. This is because gestational diabetes has long-term effects on the baby, including high weight, diabetes, and cardiovascular risks. When it comes to the gestational diabetes and long-term effects on the mother, an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes is a major concern.
Similarly, when it comes to juvenile diabetes, the long-term effects include obesity for life, cardiovascular concerns, and kidney failure.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you must also consider the long-term effects of diabetes medication. The long-term effects of diabetes medication include:
- Lactic acidosis
- Trouble breathing
- Stomach problems
- Abnormal muscle pain
These long-term effects vary with different drugs and it is best to ask your doctor about them when you start taking them.
Preventing the Long-Term Risks of Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes management is the only way to prevent these long-term risks of type 2 diabetes. You must cut down on the sugar and carbohydrates that you consume, and replace them with lean proteins instead. If you are unsure how to structure your meals, you can consider following the keto diet as it was originally structured to help diabetes patients manage their disease.
Exercising regularly is also a crucial factor when it comes to preventing these long-term risks. You must also cut down on smoking (or quit entirely) as smoking causes damage to blood vessels, and this can lead to the symptoms of the long-term risks appearing much sooner than they should.
Ensuring that you maintain a stress-free outlook is another way to manage diabetes and prevent these complications from occurring. Stress causes chemical changes in the body by releasing cortisol, and this can elevate your blood sugar levels quite substantially.
Diabetes is a disease that will stay with you for life. Thus, you must learn how to manage it correctly as soon as you are diagnosed. However, if you haven’t been doing that, it is never too late to start. Take care of your diet and exercise, and ensure that you have regular check-ups with your doctor, in order to prevent these long-term risks of type 2 diabetes, and live a healthy life!