Complications of Diabetes Mellitus
Metabolic Health

Complications of Diabetes Mellitus

Complication of diabetes can be feather divided into two category i.e., acute complications of diabetes mellitus and chronic complications of diabetes mellitus. Blood glucose provides energy for the metabolic systems in the body. But any considerable hike in blood glucose levels can be dangerous. Insulin, an essential hormone, helps to break down glucose and release energy. Diabetes is a condition in which the pancreas produces less or no insulin. The body is thus unable to metabolise blood glucose to produce energy effectively. As a result, glucose accumulates in the blood, leading to a spike in blood sugar levels.

There can be multiple causes of diabetes mellitus (type-2 diabetes), including sedentary lifestyle, obesity, genetic and stress-related issues, and metabolic disorders such as chronic pancreatitis. Acute diabetes symptoms often go unnoticed. However, if diagnosed in the early stages, they can be reversed.  

Types of Diabetes

There are three types of diabetes:

1. Type-1 Diabetes

Type-1 diabetes is caused when the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Therefore, any person who has type 1 diabetes has to take external insulin shots to lower their blood sugar levels. The cause of diabetes is often genetic, but other factors such as weight gain and lifestyle changes can also contribute to it. Poor habits or a sedentary lifestyle can also trigger acute complications of diabetes type-1. It is also called juvenile diabetes, as it often shows up at the age of 4–7 or 10–14 years. The cause may be genetic or even viruses like rotavirus, mumps virus, etc.

2. Type-2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes shows up in most individuals with prediabetes, and it usually starts on or after the age of 35. In this condition, the body stops making enough insulin to utilise blood sugar effectively, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. Acute complications of diabetes type 2  are often triggered by a fainting episode leading to the detection of varying blood sugar levels.

3. Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes refers to diabetes that develops for the first time during pregnancy. Blood sugar is usually regulated by hormones. Pregnancy often causes a hormonal imbalance, making it difficult for the body to metabolise glucose properly. It results in gestational diabetes. High body weight before pregnancy can be another cause. It occurs mainly after the 2nd trimester and may need high-risk care.

What Causes Complications Associated With Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition that has severe long term aftereffects and complications. When sugar levels remain elevated in the blood for an extended length of time, this causes uncontrolled diabetes and may cause severe damage to the blood vessels. 

Nerve damage occurs when the arteries in your body aren't functioning correctly, blood doesn’t go to the regions of your body that it needs to. This results in your nerves not functioning correctly, which in turn causes you to lose sensation in various places of your body. If you cause damage to the nerves and blood vessels in one area of your body, you are more likely to have the same kinds of issues in other areas of your body.

According to what is known, the higher your HbA1c level, the greater the likelihood that you may have problems. Glycated hemoglobin, also known as HbA1c, occurs when glucose attaches itself to the cells of your blood and builds up in your bloodstream. The amount may be determined with a blood test that looks at your sugar levels over the course of the last three months on average. However, blood sugar levels are not the only factor to consider. Your blood vessels may be damaged and put you at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease if you have high blood pressure, smoke cigarettes, or have a lot of fat in your blood (cholesterol). Most complications that arise due to diabetes occur due to nerve damage and weight gain.

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Acute Complications of Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes has several long term and short term complications and here are some of the acute complications of diabetes. The acute complications of diabetes mellitus may begin to show up, starting with fainting and dizziness. The  complications of diabetes type 2 do not differ much from type 1 diabetes. The following are the acute complications of diabetes: 

1. Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Also known as DKA, is a potentially fatal condition that occurs when a person with diabetes does not take insulin and has high blood sugar levels, which causes ketones to accumulate in the body. The condition of production of high amounts of ketones in the body is called ketoacidosis. In the absence of insulin, the body cannot use glucose to produce energy. Thus, it starts breaking fat in its place. This process causes the buildup of ketones—substances produced in the body when the cells don’t get enough glucose. Thus, this leads to ketoacidosis. Read more about the diabetic ketoacidosis symptoms.

2. Hypoglycemia

A condition that is an acute complication of type 1 diabetes where blood sugar can get fatally low. In acute diabetes, medications or insulin is administered to maintain blood sugar levels. Sudden fall in blood sugar levels, i.e. hypoglycemia, often occurs due to an unsupervised dosage of medications or insulin.  

3. Frequent Urination

Acute diabetes symptoms strain the kidneys to break down and absorb the excess glucose in the blood. The kidneys help excrete this glucose in the urine and draw out fluid from your cells. It leads to frequent urination and increased thirst.

4. Hyperglycemia

A condition where blood sugar can get fatally high. 

5. Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic State

This is a condition that exclusively affects people who have type 2 diabetes and poses a significant risk to their lives. Both acute dehydration and very high blood glucose might bring on this condition.

Chronic Complications of Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes has long term and short term complications and these are long-term issues that may manifest themselves gradually over time if left uncontrolled and untreated. Some of these are: 

Eye issues (retinopathy)

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye illness that may compromise a person's vision. Diabetic retinopathy can occur in certain persons who have diabetes. It is possible to cure retinopathy and avoid further vision loss if it is detected in a timely manner, which is often via an eye screening exam.

Foot troubles

Diabetes-related foot issues are very dangerous and, if addressed, may result in amputation. Harm to the nerves in your feet may cause a loss of sensation in your feet, and high blood sugar can cause damage to your circulation, making it take longer for wounds and sores to heal. Because of this, it is essential that you discuss any changes in the appearance or sensation of your feet with your primary care physician.

Compromised cardiovascular health

If you have diabetes and have high blood sugar for an extended length of time, your blood vessels may get damaged. This may sometimes result in cardiovascular events including heart attacks and strokes.

Kidney damage (nephropathy)

Diabetes may cause damage to your kidneys over a prolonged period of time, making it more difficult for your kidneys to remove waste and excess fluid from your body. Both high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure are to blame for this condition. Diabetic nephropathy is another name for this condition.

Nerve damage (neuropathy)

Some people with diabetes can have nerve damage as a result of elevated blood sugar levels; this can happen to anybody with diabetes. Because of this, it may become more difficult for the nerves to convey information between the brain and every area of our body, which may have an impact on how we see, hear, feel, and move.

Gum disease and oral infections 

A high blood sugar level might cause an increase in the amount of sugar found in the saliva. This introduces bacteria, which in turn generate acid, which eats away at the enamel of your teeth and causes damage to your gums. It is also possible for the blood vessels in your gums to get damaged, which increases the risk that your gums may become infected.

Increased risk of developing cancer

Diabetes puts a person at a significantly increased risk for acquiring a number of different malignancies. In addition, some cancer therapies could influence your diabetes and make it more difficult for you to keep your blood sugar under control.

Decreased sex drive

Because damaged blood vessels and nerves reduce the quantity of blood that can travel to your sexual organs, you may experience a loss of part of your feeling. If you have high blood sugar, you have an increased risk of developing thrush as well as an infection in the urinary system. It might also result in erectile dysfunction.

Other Complications Of Diabetes Mellitus

There are other complications that come along with diabetes mellitus. Complications of diabetes mellitus that affect the feet, including changes in the skin, ulceration, infection, and gangrene, are quite prevalent and may be attributed to vascular disease, neuropathy, and relative immunosuppression. These problems have the potential to result in amputations. 

People with diabetes are at an increased risk for developing musculoskeletal conditions such as muscular infarction, carpal tunnel syndrome, Dupuytren contracture, adhesive capsulitis, and sclerodactyly. They also have an increased risk of developing:

  • Vision complications that are unrelated to diabetic retinopathy (eg, cataracts, glaucoma, corneal abrasions, optic neuropathy)
  • Diseases of the liver and gallbladder (eg, cirrhosis, gallstones)
  • Dermatologic disease (eg, tinea infections, lower-extremity ulcers, diabetic dermopathy, necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum, diabetic systemic sclerosis, vitiligo, granuloma annulare, insulin resistance)
  • Depression
  • Dementia

How do I Control or Prevent Diabetes Complications?

Diabetes mellitus can be a serious condition and should be taken seriously once detected. People who have diabetes should be vigilant to immediately detect any acute complications of diabetes type 1 or type 2. You can follow simple steps to keep yourself away from any further complications of diabetes.

1. Relieve Stress-related Issues

Stress is a major contributing factor in any lifestyle disorder. Stress can trigger a spike in blood glucose levels. Follow relaxation exercises, meditation and even opt for therapy classes to stay free from stress.

2. Exercise Regularly

Exercise is the key to good health. With a regular exercise regime, you can keep up your metabolism and break down sugar much more efficiently to release energy.

3. Keep your Feet Clean

Diabetes causes loss of sensation in the extremities. Foot care should be made a routine to remove any debris. People with diabetes cannot feel pin or thorn pricks, which often causes the wound to become a septic wound and later into gangrene. Routine foot checkups can avoid this situation. 

4. Regular Eye Checkups

Cataracts, glaucoma, and damage to the retina are common manifestations of diabetes. To rule out any of them, keep regular eye checkups a part of your fitness screenings. 

5. Stay away from Smoking

Smoking can trigger type-2 diabetes. Smoking causes an increase in triglycerides in the blood vessels and reduces blood flow in the extremities. It raises blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease and retinal damage. 

6. Stay away from Alcohol

Drinking in moderation can be tolerated, but excess alcohol intake can adversely affect the liver, pancreas and kidney. Beer and wine contain carbohydrates which can spike blood sugar levels. Drinking increases appetite and thus calorie consumption. It adversely affects blood sugar levels. So, avoid drinking alcohol as much as possible. 

Bottomline

Diabetes mellitus is a lifestyle disorder with profound implications. Sometimes the disease can cause life-threatening complications also. It is necessary to identify and control blood sugar levels as soon as possible. Once detected, with proper precautions, you can prevent all these complications and lead a healthy life. Chronic pancreatitis and diabetes are often linked together as the pancreas produces insulin. Inflammation of the pancreas, pancreatitis, can adversely affect blood sugar levels. 

FAQs

1. What are the short-term complications of diabetes mellitus?

Diabetic ketoacidosis, frequent thirst, frequent urination and hyperglycemia are some of the short term complications of diabetes mellitus.

2. What are the long-term complications of diabetes mellitus?

The failure to treat diabetes mellitus or control blood sugar levels may cause long-term side effects such as damage to the heart and kidneys, diabetic neuropathy, retinal and macular damage, delayed wound healing, and irregular sleep.

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