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11 ways diabetes damages your health

03rd September 2015

Most people are aware of the fact that a diet that’s too rich in sugar and the lack of physical activity can make them prone to gaining excess weight and developing type 2 diabetes. This ailment occurs when blood sugar levels remain elevated for too long and can be caused by an insufficient production of insulin or by the organism’s inability to use this hormone efficiently for moving glucose from the bloodstream to cells.

People affected by diabetes are at higher risk for high cholesterol and blood pressure and are more likely to develop heart diseases and to suffer a stroke. Also, they’re likely to experience vision problems, to gain weight, to suffer from slow-healing wounds and from fatigue.

However, this ailment doesn’t always get the deserved attention, maybe because in its initial stages the symptoms aren’t that easy to recognize, or because people don’t realize how threatening this condition is and how much it can damage their overall health. Given below are 11 of the most serious effects of diabetes on one’s health and body.

1. Diabetes damages the kidneys and increases the risk of kidney failure. When there’s too much sugar in the bloodstream, the transport of oxygen and nutrients to kidneys is altered, and these organs can’t function properly. Their ability to filter waste products from the blood is impaired, and debris can accumulate, leading to diabetic nephropathy.

This condition doesn’t manifest through specific symptoms in the early stages, but left untreated it can lead to irreversible kidney damage and failure. You may however notice some signs that can tell you that your kidneys aren’t working properly, such as swelling in your feet and legs.

2. Diabetes affects the blood vessels and favors hypertension. When the levels of blood sugar remain elevated for too long, the risk of plaque formation increases, and once the fatty materials accumulate on the walls of blood vessels, blood flow is restricted. The fatty deposits can lead to the hardening of blood vessels walls and to higher than normal blood pressure.

3. Hyperglycemia can harm your nerves and increase the risk of diabetic neuropathy. It is estimated that about 70% of people dealing with this condition are suffering from neuropathy, which can be either peripheral diabetic neuropathy or autonomic neuropathy.

The former affects the hands and toes and leads to pain and the loss of sensation in feet, while the latter affects the nerves that control the internal organs, leading to problems like dizziness, fainting, gastroparesis, sexual problems and urination problems. Peripheral diabetic neuropathy is more common and manifests not only through a decreased sensation in the extremities, but also through cold feet and wounds that heal very slowly.

Due to the decreased sensation and poor blood flow, one may not notice an injury or infection and this increases the risk of developing leg ulcers, and of having a foot amputated.

4. Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Heart disease is common among people affected by this ailment, and people who don’t manage to keep their diabetes under control are twice as likely to suffer a stroke as people who have normal blood sugar levels.

5. People affected by this condition suffer from dry and cracked skin. Like all the other cells in your body, skin cells receive nutrients, water and oxygen through the bloodstream, and when the composition of this fluid is altered by too much sugar, skin problems can occur.

The typical issues diabetes sufferers have to deal with include dry and cracked skin, as well as an increased risk of skin infections and calluses, which can lead to ulcers if left untreated. Boils and infections of the hair follicles are common in diabetes sufferers, and nails tend to be unhealthy as well.

6. Diabetes affects your eyes and increases the risk of retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts. Retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels in the retina become damaged as a result of hyperglycemia. This condition is asymptomatic in the early stages, but can be detected with specific tests, early treatments reducing the risk of further eye damage.

Cataracts occurs when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, and leads to distorted vision and increased sensitivity to glare. Glaucoma appears when fluid builds up inside the eyes at higher than normal levels. This creates pressure inside the eye and can lead to irreversible damage.

7. Pregnant women can develop gestational diabetes, and this increases the risk of preeclampsia. Gestational diabetes occurs when the pregnancy hormones interfere with the organism’s ability to process insulin, and sugar remains in the bloodstream for too long. It is estimated that about 4% of pregnant women develop this condition each year.

8. Diabetes affects the health of teeth and increases the risk of gum disease. People suffering from this condition are more likely to have red and swollen gums and to experience frequent bleeding and tooth infections. In the long run, this can lead to tooth loss.

9. People suffering from this ailment are more prone to having high levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides. These increase the risk of high blood pressure and obesity, and can contribute to metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.

10. Diabetes may make one more prone to depression due to its metabolic effect on the brain, and to the variations in blood sugar levels.

11. Diabetes weakens the immune system, making you more prone to illness. People suffering from this condition experience flu and cold episodes more often and are more likely to become sick.

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