Other Risks of Diabetes
When you have diabetes, you’re at risk of other health complications. These complications are more likely the less you control your blood sugar – that’s why monitoring your A1C score is so important.
Your Blood Pressure
Eighty percent of people who have type 2 diabetes also have high blood pressure. For that reason, if you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, your doctor will likely want to monitor your blood pressure, in addition to your A1C score.
High blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular problems, like heart attacks, strokes, angina and atherosclerosis. According to the American Heart Association, adults with diabetes are two to four times as likely to die of heart disease than people who do not have diabetes. Diabetes is one of the seven leading controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. You can work to decrease your chances of cardiovascular disease by controlling your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure. Working out 30 minutes five days a week also reduces your chances of cardiovascular disease.
Kidney damage or nephropathy can be caused by diabetes because of damage caused to your glomeruli. Glomeruli are the tiny blood vessel clusters that filter out waste from your blood. When your blood cannot filter out that waste, it builds up in your body and can reach poisonous levels, a condition known as uremia. Almost a third of people who have diabetes develop diabetic nephropathy, which is the top cause of kidney failure, according to WebMD. When damage is extreme, you could need dialysis or a kidney transplant. Doctors can determine whether you have kidney disease by looking for a protein called albumin in your urine, which is one of the “waste” chemicals that your glomeruli won’t be filtering out. This can be discovered very early in kidney disease.
Nerve damage or neuropathy can be caused by diabetes because the excess sugar in your bloodstream can damage the walls of the blood vessels that nourish your nerves. This damage can lead to poor blood flow to extremities, like your legs and feet, which can cause infections to develop in ordinary cuts and blisters and lead to amputation. Neuropathy can also cause nausea, diarrhea, constipation and erectile dysfunction.
As mentioned above, excess sugar in your bloodstreams can lead to damaged blood vessels. When blood vessels of the retina are damaged, it can lead to blindness. People who have diabetes are also at increased risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma.
Hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes than people without diabetes. It’s also 30 percent more likely that people with prediabetes experience hearing loss than people who are not prediabetic or diabetic, according to the American Diabetes Association. At the moment, hearing loss is correlated with diabetes, but scientists have yet to prove causation. It’s possible that blood vessels in the inner ear are damaged by sugar in the same way that blood vessels are damaged in the eyes; however, that theory has yet to be confirmed.
At the moment, scientists have found a correlation between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s, but they’ve yet to find causation. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the following theories are being considered by scientists aiming to link diabetes with Alzheimer’s disease. Some scientists theorize that inflammation caused by high blood sugar can damage brain cells and lead to Alzheimer’s. Some theorize that the chemicals that our brains depend on can be damaged by too much insulin in our bloodstream, which could contribute to Alzheimer’s. Heart disease and strokes, which as stated above are correlated with diabetes, cause damage to blood vessels. If those blood vessels are damaged in the brain, it could trigger Alzheimer’s.
Diabetes can cause a multitude of skin conditions. For example, scleredema diabeticorum thickens the skin on the back of your neck and upper back when blood sugar levels are too high. Another example is acanthosis nigricans which darkens and thickens certain areas of the skin, particularly the skin folds. This condition tends to begin when someone is at risk for diabetes and can serve as an indication for doctors to check blood glucose levels as it’s a sign of insulin resistance.
Studies show that people with diabetes are at higher risk to develop depression than people who don’t have diabetes. People with chronic physical health problems are three times more likely to have depression than people with no chronic physical health problems, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Complications and stress associated with chronic physical health problems can serve as a trigger for people who are already disposed to depression.