Diabetes is a chronic illness where your body doesn’t produce sufficient insulin, a hormone that helps convert glucose or blood sugar into energy. An insufficient amount of insulin leads to glucose accumulation in your blood, causing serious health damage. There are mainly two types of diabetes namely, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease and types 2 diabetes is the most commonly diagnosed one. Improper management of diabetes regardless of the type may result in potential high-risk illnesses such as heart complications, stroke, kidney damage, and nerve damage. However, when detected early, diabetes can be effectively controlled. Therefore, it is imperative to understand and be mindful of the signs and symptoms showcased by your body. This article explains the effects and complications your body undergoes after a diabetic diagnosis.
The Body’s Reaction to Diabetes
Your body feels different when you have diabetes. It shows signs and symptoms that include thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, vision disturbances, slow healing of wounds, and even yeast infections. Recognizing these symptoms early can aid in the prevention of long-term side-effects commonly referred to as diabetic complications. The most significant reaction that your body shows to this illness involves your glucose levels and insulin. When you have diabetes, your pancreas makes insulin either too little or none at all. In the former case, the insulin produced is not sufficient to be used effectively for cells to transform glucose into energy. And as a result, alternate hormones are used to turn fat into energy which may lead to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. When left untreated, this condition can lead to even death.
With type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance is a common occurrence where your body loses its insulin sensitivity, resulting in an increased amount of glucose in your blood system. Fatty deposits in blood vessels raise your risk of developing high blood pressure, which doubles your chances of getting atherosclerosis, a condition that makes your blood vessels exceptionally hard. This prevents smooth blood flow and can gradually result in pain in your hands and feet while walking referred to as intermittent claudication.
Type 1 diabetes, even though less common, also destroys insulin-making cells and people living with this condition need frequent insulin shots to survive.
Other ways diabetes impacts a person’s body include their fertility and sexual health. Men with diabetes are at high risk of developing erectile dysfunction and menstrual irregularities are common in women.
Complications on Different Organs of the Body
Too much sugar in the blood can damage the body’s organs, especially macrovascular and microvascular blood vessels, and therefore can adversely affect any part of the body. However, certain parts are subjected to damage more than others.
- Effect on the heart- Diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are inter-related as it affects your circulatory system. This is because diabetes causes severe damage to blood vessels and thus contributes to high blood pressure which in turn risks the occurrence of various cardiovascular diseases significantly.
- Effect on the kidneys- High blood glucose levels damage blood vessels in the kidneys preventing them from functioning properly. Over time, kidney failure occurs. Kidney disease is also called diabetic nephropathy.
- Effects on the eyes- Diabetic retinopathy is brought on by uncontrolled diabetes. Glaucoma, cataracts, and macular edema are also vision-related problems and can even lead to vision loss.
- Effect on the skin- Your skin is the largest organ of your body and diabetes affects your integumentary system significantly. Cracked or dry skin is a common symptom and moisturizing these areas helps to a certain extent. However, too much moisture brings on fungal or bacterial infections as well. Diabetic dermopathy, digital sclerosis, and xanthomatosis are few other skin conditions associated with diabetes. All conditions need a dermatologist’s immediate attention.
- Effect on the central nervous system- Diabetes severely affects your nervous system and this damage referred to as diabetic neuropathy enhances your vulnerability to injuries. This may further result in the development of serious infections or diseases.
- Effect on endocrine, excretory, and digestive systems- Insufficient production of insulin by the pancreas leads to alternate hormones to create toxic chemicals such as acids and ketone bodies. As a result, diabetic ketoacidosis occurs which is a dangerous and life-threatening condition. Diabetic hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome (HHS) is another issue that affects your excretory and digestive system in addition to gastroparesis, a condition that makes it difficult for the stomach to empty itself of food in a typical way.
- Effect on the reproductive system- Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes diagnosed only during pregnancy. Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how your cells utilize the glucose in your blood. A high level of glucose may lead to preeclampsia and eclampsia. These conditions are risky for both the mother and fetal development.
Proper Diabetes Management
Diabetes has no cure and that is a fact. However, it is comforting to know that the risk of diabetes-related complications can be mitigated by keeping your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels in check. Regular check-ups are vital in proper diabetes control. Your doctor will advise you to check your blood glucose levels at certain intervals, depending upon your diabetes management plan. This helps to keep your sugar levels within the recommended range and also provides you insight into how proper medications, healthy diet, exercise, etc. reduce the risk of diabetes-related illnesses.
One of the tests to measure the quantity of sugar or glucose tethered to red blood cells is called HbA1c. A small sample of blood is taken from your body and the results give you information about how high or low your sugar levels have been over three months. It’s highly recommended that a diabetic person measures HbA1c at least once or twice a year. Another popular diabetic control method is regular blood glucose monitoring. It is an essential tool that helps you identify and record changes in your glucose levels. So how often should blood glucose be monitored? The answer is completely based on a person’s health and unique condition. In addition to such measures, a successful diabetes management plan also includes an active lifestyle, a healthy diet, and an understanding of what effects it has on your body. Not all bodies have the same reaction to diabetes, and the key is to catch these signs as early as possible.
Diabetes is a slow killer. It is an on-going and progressive disease that has no cure. However, the good news is that diabetes can be controlled and prevented in most cases. Managing diabetes over the long haul is certainly no cakewalk. A person must learn to live with diabetes, remain motivated, and fight this disease at any cost. Being diabetic implies that you are required to take certain precautions and develop a healthy diabetes management plan. Remember, anyone can get diabetes. Some people are more prone than others because of unhealthy and sedentary lifestyles. It is a common misconception that diabetes is an “old-age” illness, wherein the truth is that it can develop at any age. You can get diabetes at any point in your life, but this disease can be prevented, delayed, and even reversed when detected early. Sadly, many people disregard the warning signs and symptoms, and by then it’s too late! So, work towards changing this trend, you got this.