Diabetic Complications

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Potential Complications of Diabetes: Risks and Prevention

Increased Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

Untreated or poorly managed diabetes can lead to a wide range of health problems. Individuals with diabetes are up to five times more likely to develop heart disease or suffer a stroke. This increased risk is related to the intake of fatty and high-sugar foods.

Atherosclerosis

Prolonged high blood glucose levels increase the likelihood of atherosclerosis, a condition where blood vessels become clogged and narrowed by fatty substances. This can result in:

  • Angina: Chest pain due to a reduced blood supply to the coronary arteries.
  • Stroke: Caused when a build-up of fatty substances breaks off from an artery wall, travels to the brain, and causes a blockage.

Nerve Damage

Hyperglycaemia can lead to nerve damage. If this damage is limited to the peripheral nervous system (excluding the brain and spine), it is known as peripheral neuropathy.

Other Complications

Additional complications of diabetes include:

  • Diabetic Retinopathy: Eye damage affecting the retina, leading to vision changes and potential blindness if untreated.
  • Kidney Disease: Chronic kidney disease caused by high blood sugar damaging the kidney filters (nephrons).
  • Foot Problems: Resulting from poor circulation and nerve damage.
  • Sexual Dysfunction: Due to blood vessel and nerve damage.

Diabetic Retinopathy

The retina, a light-sensitive part of the eye, requires a constant blood supply provided by small blood vessels. High blood sugar levels can damage these vessels, leading to three stages of retinopathy:

  • Early Stage: Tiny bleeds with minimal impact on vision.
  • Intermediate Stage: More significant changes affecting vision.
  • Advanced Stage: Formation of weak scar tissue and blood vessels, potentially leading to blindness.

Early detection and lifestyle changes can prevent further deterioration.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease is a long-term condition caused by diabetes, where high blood sugar damages the kidney's filtering units (nephrons). Symptoms include:

  • Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen ankles, feet, and hands
  • Changes in urination patterns
  • Blood in the urine
  • Nausea

Seek medical help if these symptoms occur alongside diabetes.