Complications

Long Term Complications

Living with blood glucose that stays over 8mmol/l for a long period of time can cause serious damage to the delicate parts of your body. It can be very frightening to think about this, but the good news is that, with early detection and good care, advances in medical treatment make it perfectly possible for you to stay healthy.

High blood glucose for a long time damages the large and small blood vessels and fine nerve endings. If unchecked, this can cause problems that can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, strokes and amputations.

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Eye damage (retinopathy)

Have your eyes checked by an ophthalmologist

  • Type 1 – every year.
  • Type 2 – Immediately on diagnosis and every year after that

Kidney damage (nephropathy)

Kidney damage can be detected by testing the urine for protein (microalbuminurea). All people with diabetes should have this test done every year.

Vascular damage

The main arteries become stiff and blocked, blood pressure increases and the heart becomes stressed. Circulation, particularly to the hands and feet, becomes poor. Make sure that you test your blood pressure regularly and that you do some form of exercise.

Nerve damage (neuropathy)

Nerve damage leads to loss of sensation in the feet, and they become particularly vulnerable to wounds and infection, often leading to amputation.

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Taking care of your feet

  • Let your doctor examine your feet at each visit.
  • Check your feet daily, using a mirror if necessary.
  • Wash your feet daily.
  • Keep skin soft.
  • Wear comfortable supportive shoes.
  • Don’t walk barefoot.
  • Take any wounds, cuts and sores to your doctor.
  • Clip toenails straight across.
  • Avoid excessive heat and cold.
  • See a podiatrist every six months if possible.

Sexual dysfunction

Nerve damage can also affect sexual health, causing impotence or failure to have an erection in men and inability to achieve orgasm in women.

Infections Infections, itchiness, sores, boils etc. are common as high blood glucose inhibits the action of the white blood cells, the body’s main germ fighters.