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Five common diabetes complications

Diabetes isn't a death sentence is you make lifestyle changes, eat a proper diet, and control your blood sugars. Yet, if you let your blood glucose go unchecked, refuse to exercise or eat a poor diet, you could be end up at risk for several diabetes complications.

5 most common diabetes complications

  1. Cardiovascular disease. According to the American Diabetes Association, two-thirds of individuals with diabetes die from heart attack or stroke, which are caused by cardiovascular, or heart, disease. Knowing your "ABCs" is a good start toward heart disease prevention: A is for A1c check, a test for average blood glucose over a three-month period; B is for blood pressure --know your healthy range and stay there; C is for cholesterol--keep LDL and triglycerides low.
  2. Diabetic retinopathy. While people diagnosed with diabetes do have a higher likelihood of blindness than those without the disease, the good news is that regular eye exams and early diagnosis of eye problems can prevent or reverse vision loss.
  3. Kidney damage. Also called nephropathy, high blood glucose levels overwork kidneys, damaging the filters that remove waste from the blood. When diagnosed during microalbuminuria, which means small amounts of protein are leaking into urine, treatment is possible to slow kidney disease. If caught during macroalbuminuria, end-stage renal disease usually results. While not all people with diabetes get nephropathy, maintaining a healthy blood pressure and tight blood glucose control are the most important factors for prevention.
  4. Nerve damage. Diabetic neuropathy is caused by damage to tiny blood vessels, which occurs due to over-exposure to high blood glucose. Nerve damage is the culprit in foot, joint and leg problems associated with diabetes. As autonomic neuropathy, it can also cause complications with the bladder, digestive or intestinal tracts, and reproductive organs.
  5. Infections. Urinary tract infections, yeast infections, infected cuts, scrapes and wounds, all become dangerous to the person with diabetes, because they can be chronic and difficult to cure. Infections are often side effects of other diabetes complications. Addressing both the infection and the original complication is ideal.

Dealing with common diabetes complications

Tight blood glucose control and normal blood pressure are the foundations for preventing complications from diabetes. Tight blood glucose control means keeping your blood glucose level as close to normal, as possible. Speak to your doctor about the frequency of testing needed for you to maintain tight blood glucose control. Good diabetes control emerges from these four cornerstones:

  1. Plan what you eat, and when
  2. Stay active
  3. Take your medication regularly
  4. Check your blood sugar often

Ten habits to keep common diabetes complications at bay

In addition, incorporating these 10 practices can improve your quality of life with diabetes.

  1. Visit your doctor every three months, or more, if needed
  2. Have your feet examined at the doctor's
  3. Request a Glycosylated Hemoglobin Test
  4. Quit smoking and limit alcohol intake
  5. Control high blood pressure
  6. Get an annual cholesterol test, including HDL
  7. Ask for regular kidney function tests
  8. Schedule annual or bi-annual eye examinations
  9. Control infections by cleaning and monitoring sores, cuts and injuries, especially near the feet
  10. Practice good dental hygiene, including daily brushing and flossing, and bi-annual cleanings

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that nearly 27 million children and adults have diabetes. Ninety to 95 percent of those cases are type 2. Although you may feel scared, you are not alone. By keeping a close eye on daily health and habits, living a long and healthy life with diabetes is possible.

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About Leah DiPlacido

Leah DiPlacido, Ph.D. is a biomedical writer/editor. She received her doctorate degree in Immunology at Yale University, and conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Connecticut. She has authored research articles in publications such as "Arthritis and Rheumatism" and "Journal of Immunology." Leah now writes about topics in health for doctors, scientists, and the general public.

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