Blindness caused by Diabetes is a serious complication of poorly controlled diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of adult onset blindness in the United States, causing nearly 24,000 new cases of blindness per year according to the US Centers for Disease Control. Blindness is caused when high levels of blood sugar weaken tiny blood vessels in the eye, eventually causing them to bleed. This damages the retina, the part of the eye that receives light and sends images to the brain. This side effect can be prevented through tight control of blood sugar. Poorly controlled blood sugar greatly increases a patient’s risk of diabetic blindness. Regular annual visits to the eye doctor, as soon as someone knows they are diabetic, also are important to preventing diabetic blindness.
Poorly controlled Diabetes is the leading cause of nontraumatic foot and leg amputation in the United States, accounting for about 82,000 lower-limb amputations each year. Foot problems most often happen when high blood sugar causes nerve damage, also called neuropathy, which results in loss of feeling in your feet. Diabetic nerve damage can make a patient unable to feel pain, heat, and cold. Loss of feeling often means you may not feel a foot injury. You could have a tack or stone in your shoe and walk on it all day without knowing. You could get a blister and not feel it. You might not notice a foot injury until the skin breaks down and causes a serious foot ulcer. Without proper attention and treatment, this damaged foot may eventually have to be amputated.
Poorly treated Diabetes is the leading cause of severe Kidney Disease, accounting for 44% of new cases each year. Diabetes can damage the kidneys, which serve as a natural filter, removing waste products from the blood. High levels of blood sugar make the kidneys filter too much blood. All this extra work is hard on the kidneys. After many years, they start to leak, causing waste products to build up in the blood. When kidney disease is diagnosed early, several treatments may keep kidney disease from getting worse. If kidney disease is allowed to go untreated for too long, end-stage renal disease, or ESRD, occurs, and the kidneys fail completely. This is very dangerous to the patient, who will need to have a kidney transplant or to have their blood filtered by machine (dialysis).
Neuropathy and Nerve Damage
One of the most common complications of diabetes is diabetic neuropathy, or severe nerve damage to the nerves that run throughout the body, connecting the spinal cord to muscles, skin, blood vessels, and other organs. Diabetic neuropathies range from slight pain or numbness to severe pain and even paralysis. In addition to muscles, diabetic neuropathy can affect the digestive and urinary systems, causing vomiting, diarrhea, or urinary tract infection.
Heart Disease and Stroke
Most people with diabetes also have high blood pressure and cholesterol that increase their risk for heart disease and stroke. The presence of diabetes makes it even more likely that these people will experience heart disease or stroke. In fact, more than 65% of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. Preventing these cardiovascular diseases requires good control of blood sugar, as well as blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
See these links to Diabetes & Cardiovascular Disease Review, an American Diabetes Association/American College of Cardiology newsletter featuring information on treatment guidelines for patients with Diabetes and risk of Heart Disease. Each article includes a two-page summary of the facts for Patients who might be unfamiliar with general medical terms. (all files require Adobe Acrobat Reader).
- Redefining Diabetes Control.
This article gives an excellent overview of the link between diabetes and increased risk of heart disease and stroke. It also includes helpful charts detailing the standards of clinical care for diabetes patients, from blood glucose and blood pressure control to yearly tests and weight goals.
- Hypertension in Diabetes.
This article details the risks of high blood pressure in diabetic patients and summarizes goals for the gradual treatment of high blood pressure.
- Diabetic Dyslipidemia.
This article discusses the high risk of heart disease associated with the combination of diabetes and high cholesterol. It describes the different types of cholesterol (“good” and “bad,” and sets target cholesterol levels for diabetes patients.
- Nutrition, Diabetes and CVD.
This article compares different nutrition recommendations for diabetes patients and gives some basic guidelines for a healthy diet for diabetics.
- Coronary Heart Disease in Women with Diabetes.
This article gives an overview of women-specific issues in diabetes and heart disease.