Complications Of Diabetes Mellitus Type 1 & 2
Metabolic Health

Complications of Diabetes Mellitus Every Diabetic Must Know

The efforts to get your diabetes under control are undoubtedly inevitable, considering the undesirable complications of diabetes mellitus. Every diabetic should be aware of complications of diabetes mellitus.

What is diabetes mellitus?

Diabetes mellitus (or diabetes) is a chronic condition differentiated by excess blood glucose levels. It is primarily caused by insufficient production of insulin in your body (a hormone that helps keep the blood glucose levels in limits) or the body’s inability to utilise insulin. High blood glucose levels cause symptoms such as increased thirst, fatigue, blurred vision and delayed healing of wounds.

Type 1 diabetes

Often known as juvenile diabetes and insulin-dependent diabetes, this type of diabetes is a condition where the pancreas produces negligible or no insulin. Besides, some genetics and certain viruses usually are the type 1 diabetes causes. Its common symptoms include frequent urination, sudden onset of bedwetting in kids, increased thirst, weakness, and blurred vision.

Type 1 diabetes complications

Complications of diabetes tend to be pretty severe, even life-threatening at times. Type 1 diabetes complications include:

  • Increased risk of heart and blood vessel diseases such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, atherosclerosis or narrowing of arteries, and increased blood pressure.
  • Nerve damage: (neuropathy), causing numbness or tingling sensation, usually starts from the tip of your legs.
  • Kidney damage: (nephropathy) causes kidney failure or irreversible kidney disease requiring dialysis.
  • Eye damage: particularly to the retina of the eye (potentially causing blindness).
  • Foot damage: risk of several foot complications, severe infections which may even require foot or leg amputation. Read more about the diabetic foot treatment.
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Type 2 diabetes

In type 2 diabetes, the mechanism by which our body metabolises sugar is impaired, causing elevated blood glucose levels. This chronic type usually occurs in adults and is caused when your pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin, and the body responds poorly to the insulin. This disease develops slowly, and its common symptoms include frequent urination, excessive thirst or hunger, frequent infections, numbness in extremities, or blurred vision.

Type 2 diabetes complications

Some common complications of type 2 diabetes include hypoglycaemia, diabetic retinopathy, kidney diseases and diabetic neuropathy. The tricky part is that these DM complications develop and progress very gradually, and you may not even notice them if you have diabetes for some time. Some common long term or short-term diabetes mellitus type 2 complications include:

Short term diabetes complications

Short term complications of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Hypoglycaemia (noted especially with insulin) occurs when your blood glucose level drops too low. It shows symptoms such as sweating, increased heartbeat, confusion and anxiety.
  • Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome (HHNS) is a condition with extremely high blood glucose levels, which may even cause death. This syndrome usually occurs in sick and older people and presents exaggerated diabetes symptoms.

Long term diabetes complications

Long term complications of diabetes commonly include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy: High blood glucose levels may cause cataracts or retinopathy, leading to loss of vision.
  • Kidney disease (Diabetic Nephropathy): This may eventually result in impaired kidney function requiring dialysis or kidney transplant.
  • Macrovascular problems: Long-term complication of type 2 diabetes includes damage to blood vessels because of consistently high blood sugar levels, commonly affecting the eyes, kidneys and nerves.
  • Diabetic neuropathy: The damage to blood vessels also damages the nerves causing different types of neuropathies such as peripheral (most common one affecting hands and legs), proximal, autonomic and focal.

What is gestational diabetes?

Diabetes detected for the first time during pregnancy is known as gestational diabetes. In this type, hormones or enzymes produced by the placenta make your body's cells more resistant to insulin. Usually, this type of diabetes is not allied with noticeable symptoms; however, you may experience excessive thirst or frequent urination.

Complications of gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes complications include:

  • Severe breathing difficulties: The newborn babies may suffer from respiratory distress syndrome.
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia): Hypoglycaemia may be observed during pregnancy (may cause seizures in the baby) or after delivery.  
  • High blood pressure: The risk of increased blood pressure is high in gestational diabetes.
  • Preeclampsia: It is a serious complication characterized by very high blood pressure, which can risk the lives of both mom and baby.

Complications of diabetes in pregnancy

Diabetes in pregnancy is often allied with complications as follows:

  • Excessive birth weight: Diabetic mothers may cause their babies to grow large, which can wedge in the birth canal or may be associated with birth-related injuries.
  • Early (preterm) birth: Elevated blood glucose levels increase the women's risk of early labour or delivery (before the due date)
  • Stillbirth: If left untreated, severe diabetes in pregnancy may cause the baby's death before or just after birth.
  • Having a surgical delivery: Your chances of having a C-section are very high if you have diabetes in pregnancy.

Diabetic foot complications

One of the common complications in diabetes mellitus is a diabetic foot related to several foot problems such as fungal infections, ulcers, corns, calluses or warts. Diabetic foot ulcer complications may be allied with:

  • Skin and bone infections: Even a small cut on the foot may cause infections. Increased infections in diabetes can be attributed to the compromised immune system and damaged blood or nerve vessels.
  • Abscess: Occasionally, the infection penetrates the bone or tissue and creates a pocket of pus called an abscess.
  • Gangrene: Diabetes impacts the blood vessels that supply blood to your fingers and toes. Impaired blood flow may cause the death of the tissue and may require the removal of the affected area or organ.
  • Deformities: Damaged nerves may weaken your feet muscles causing problems such as claw feet, hammertoes, and prominent metatarsal heads (heads of the bones just below your toes).
  • Amputation: Problems with blood vessels and nerves in diabetes reduce your sensation. This may cause your foot injury to go unnoticed until a severe infection results in an abscess and gangrene requiring amputation.

How do I prevent or delay complications?

Complications of diabetes mellitus are not inescapable. Following the correct lifestyle and consuming a healthy diet plays a major role in handling the complications of diabetes effectively. Make sure to keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood fats under control to reduce the risk of developing diabetes complications. Consciously keeping a track of blood sugar levels by doing regular health check-ups. Ask your healthcare experts to guide you to manage your sugar levels. To prevent or delay the complications of diabetes mellitus you need to put consistent efforts to manage your diabetes.

What causes complications associated with diabetes?

The prime reason that causes complications associated with diabetes is uncontrolled diabetes. Prolonged blood sugar levels become the cause of damage to your blood sugar levels. Once the blood vessels of your body are affected, the ability of your body to transport blood to different parts of your body gets hampered. As the blood vessels and nerves start to get damaged, different parts of your body tend to get affected which eventually leads to chronic complications of diabetes mellitus

 

As your HbA1c level rises, your risk to develop compilations gets enhanced. HbA1c which is commonly known as glycated hemoglobin is composed of glucose (sugar) that clings to your blood cells and starts to accumulate in your blood. If you continue to have high HbA1c levels, you need to manage your diabetes to reduce risk. Added to that, elevated blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and habits such as smoking are also responsible for the complications associated with diabetes mellitus.

How to manage your diabetes?

To reduce the complications related to diabetes, you need to keep a track of your HbA1c levels. If you notice high blood sugar levels constantly, you need to consult your healthcare expert to avoid long-term diabetes complications. Here are a few tips to keep your HbA1c levels under control. 

  • Eat Healthy Foods- Eating healthy foods is a must to keep your sugar levels in control. Eating the correct foods will help you to reduce your weight and manage your HbA1c levels effectively. You can consult a nutritionist for better results.
  • Quit smoking- Smoking affects your body’s ability to transport blood to various parts like the heart, feet, etc. Stopping smoking will make an essential change in your life to improve your sugar levels and handle diabetes.
  • Engage in physical activities- It is vital to keep your body moving frequently. Physical activities help you to keep your sugar levels controlled. Having a workout routine will enable you to reduce the risk of developing complications due to diabetes. 
  • Ensure timely checkups- Diabetic people should undergo timely tests and checkups to keep a track of their condition. Early diagnosis of any complications will help you to cure it effectively therefore make sure to undergo timely checkups and tests.

Bottomline

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition differentiated by excess blood glucose levels—type 1 and type 2 diabetes share symptoms such as excess thirst, frequent urination and fatigue. Complications of diabetes mellitus include eye damage, kidney damage, diabetic neuropathy and macrovascular problems. Besides, gestational diabetes and diabetic foot are associated with other detrimental complications.

FAQs

What are the acute complications of diabetes mellitus?

Being a diabetic patient, you must know the complications of diabetes well ahead of time to take precautions when needed. There are many short-term complications like Hypoglycemia in which the sugar levels do down drastically and Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome in which the sugar levels reach so high that it may even cause death. Apart from these, long-term complications include kidney diseases, macrovascular problems, diabetic retinopathy, and diabetic neuropathy. It is highly important to control your sugar levels to avoid such complications.

What are the chronic complications of diabetes mellitus?

Diabetes, when not taken care of, can result in the person experiencing chronic complications that are threatening to the human body. These complications include problems that are listed below.

  1. Cardiovascular diseases – This causes heart attack, strokes, and narrowing of arteries.
  2. Diabetic neuropathy- The blood vessels known as capillaries that nourish the nerve may get injured and cause numbness, itchiness, burning sensations, and pain.
  3. Diabetic retinopathy- Evident from the name, such complication causes retina damage and results in blurred visions and blindness. 
  4. Kidney malfunctioning – The main function of filtration of blood may get hampered due to diabetes. 

Some more chronic complications include skin problems, foot damage, hearing problems, depression, etc.

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