The Dangers Of Diabetes

by Ben Ong

dangers of diabetes

If diabetes is not reversed then the excessive levels of glucose can have devastating health consequences. And there are a number of conditions, complications and dangerous side effects that can develop from diabetes.

The likelihood of developing these complications depends on duration and the severity of high blood glucose (1). Having high blood sugar levels causes oxidative stress which damages the blood vessels and leads to many of the complications associated with diabetes (2).

The complications include, but is not limited to: damage to the eyes kidneys, legs and feet and also heart-related problems (1).

In the United States, diabetes is the leading cause of preventable amputations, blindness and kidney failure. Untreated or poorly managed diabetes can be fatal, either killing you suddenly or drastically shortening your lifespan. Reversing your diabetes is the best way to reduce the likelihood of suffering any of the following diabetes-related health conditions(3).

Retinopathy (Damage to the retina in the eye)dangers of diabetes

Diabetic retinopathy refers to vascular disease that damages the retina, which is located in the eye. High blood glucose damages the nerves and this prevents the blood flow of nutrients to the retina. Over time the damage can become so severe that the retina detaches from the eye (4).

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common complication of diabetes. It is the leading cause of blindness among adults aged 20-74 years (5). In the United States alone, there are 10,000 new cases of blindness every year due to diabetic retinopathy (1). Along with poor glucose control, the duration of living with diabetes, hypertension and high levels of cholesterol all increase the risk of retinopathy (6).

Nephropathy (Damage to the kidneys)

dangers of diabetesDiabetic nephropathy is kidney disease caused by high blood glucose. High blood glucose levels damages the vessels in the kidney that filter out waste from our body. Damage to these vessels reduces the kidneys efficiency meaning that they are less able to filter out that waste. This toxic build-up can eventually lead to kidney failure (7).

Diabetic nephropathy is the leading cause of renal failure in the United States. Kidney disease also increases the likelihood of developing heart complications such as stroke and coronary heart disease (8).

Neuropathy (Damage to the nerve fibres)dangers of diabetes

Prolonged levels of high blood glucose damage nerve fibers. This prevents the nerves from sending signals properly and is most easily noticed by the patient as they often feel tingling feeling in their limbs as a first sign of this damage. The damage also prevents oxygen and nutrients from being delivered to the extremities (9).

Individuals with diabetes are 15 times more likely to have amputation of the lower-extremities (10). By the time people are diagnosed, approximately 8% of them are already suffering from diabetic neuropathy. In the long term, more than 50% of type 2 diabetics who do not reverse their condition go on to develop neuropathy, which can lead to the amputation of lower extremities (6). Neuropathy is also thought to play a role in impaired wound healing and erectile dysfunction (6).

Cardiovascular disease

dangers of diabetesDiabetes is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and it is the most common cause of death in adults with diabetes (11), with 80% of diabetics dying from a heart-related issue (12). Diabetic are 2-4 times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease (3).

There is a strong relationship between glucose levels and the development of atherosclerotic plaque, which is an important factor for heart disease (13). An autopsy study revealed that people with higher HbA1c had greater atherosclerotic plaque development (14). High blood glucose levels induce oxidative stress and this accelerates the development of atherosclerosis (15). Insulin resistance also speeds up the development of atherosclerosis by increasing inflammation and blood cholesterol (16).

Stroke

Another complication that is associated with diabetes is strokes. Studies have found that people with diabetes were 5 times more likely to suffer from a stroke than people without diabetes. What was even more worrying about this finding was that the people were under the age of 65 (17). Every year the risk of a stroke increases by 3% in comparison to people without diabetes and after 10 years the risk of a stroke triples every year (18).

As previously mentioned, higher blood glucose levels speed up the development of an atherosclerotic plaque. Also, atherosclerotic plaque development occurs more rapidly through insulin resistance. Atherosclerotic plaque can block our blood vessels and result in a stroke (16).

Erectile dysfunctiondangers of diabetes

Erectile dysfunction is another disorder associated with diabetes. If you are unable to control your diabetes then you have a higher risk of developing erectile dysfunction. A study found that people with a HbA1c level above 7.5% were nearly 8 times more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction compared to people with a normal HbA1c level (19).

Obesity increases the risk of erectile dysfunction. Physical activity has shown to reduce the risk of developing erectile dysfunction, even in type II diabetics (20). Damaged nerves can restrict penile blood flow, which is required for erections. Also, obesity which is strongly associated with type II diabetes reduces levels of testosterone and this also contributes to erectile dysfunction (21).

Depression

dangers of diabetesThe prevalence of depression is also greater in people with diabetes. Diabetic have been shown to be over 20% more likely to have depression compared to people without diabetes (22). One study also found that diabetics suffering from depression are more likely to die earlier than diabetes without depression (23).

There are a number of factors that may link diabetes and depression. Many social issues such as childhood adversity, deprived neighborhood, environment, and financial barriers are associated with both diabetes and depression (24). Chronic inflammation, which is elevated in diabetes, is also increased in many cases of depression (25).

Deathdangers of diabetes

With the large number of complications associated with type II diabetes, it is not surprising that type II diabetes increases the risk early death. A large study in the UK examined the risk that type II diabetes poses on early mortality in middle-aged adults (26). The study included 87098 people between 40-65 years of age. The study found that people with type II diabetes had double the risk of death from any cause and triple the risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared to people of the same age without type II diabetes (26).

Reference list

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