Complications of Type 2 Diabetes

Tuesday 2 March 2021
Diabetes

Table of Contents


I. The Toll of Type 2 Diabetes

II. Eye Damage

a. Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

III. Nerve Damage

a. Types of Diabetic Neuropathy

IV. Heart Disease, Stroke, and High Blood Pressure


The Toll of Type 2 Diabetes 

Type 2 diabetes is becoming increasingly common in the United States. Its frequency in the American public does not mean it is not a dangerous condition. When the body cannot process sugar properly, several accompanying disorders to the circulatory, nervous, and immune systems can occur. Yes, insulin therapies can make your body work more efficiently, but insulin alone will not cure this disease. Along with insulin therapy, you also may be prescribed Farxiga (dapagliflozin), Glucophage (metformin), or Onglyza to regulate your blood sugar levels. [1] 

This condition occurs quite slowly, so your blood sugar may be spiking and dipping dangerously for years before you are properly diagnosed. Insulin therapy isn’t needed right away, but it is essential to keep your glucose levels stable to prevent bodily complications. Read on to learn more about the long-term complications of type 2 diabetes. 

Eye Damage

One common problem that occurs with type 2 diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. If your blood sugar is unregulated, too much sugar can cause blockages in the tiny blood vessels to the retina. The retina is essential to the eye because it is full of light-sensitive cells that organize visual information to send to the brain. New blood vessels will try to grow if these vessels are blocked, but they can leak fluid if they did not develop properly. The two types of diabetic retinopathy include:

Early diabetic retinopathy: This is the most common type, which is often called nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR). New blood vessels within the eye are not growing properly, and tiny bulges protrude from the vessel walls and sometimes leak fluid and blood into the retina.

a close up of a person’s eye

Advanced diabetic retinopathy: The more severe type of this condition involves damaged blood vessels leaking clear fluid (vitreous) into the eye's center. Scar tissue can grow on the damaged blood vessels. The retina may detach from the back of the eye when this occurs. This can cause glaucoma and may permanently affect your vision. [2] 

a. Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

If you have diabetes and notice vision changes, you will want to talk to your general practitioner or ophthalmologist as soon as possible. The early stages of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Vision loss
  • Impaired color vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Dark areas in your vision
  • Fluctuating vision [2]

Nerve Damage

Nerve damage caused by diabetes is also known as diabetic neuropathy. Increased sugar in the bloodstream can damage your blood vessels as well as your nerves. This condition can affect any nerve in the body, interfering with the nerves’ ability to send signals to the brain. If the blood vessels are affected by diabetes, then they cannot supply oxygen and nutrients to the nerves.

a. Types of Diabetic Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy: This is the most common type, and it affects the feet and legs first. Over time, the neuropathy will spread to the hands and arms. You may be experiencing this type of neuropathy if you experience the following:

  • Sharp pains or cramps
  • Tingling or burning sensation
  • Numbness
  • Reduced ability to feel pain or temperature changes
  • Foot ulcers, infections, and joint pain
  • Increased sensitivity to touch

someone massaging a person’s legs

Autonomic neuropathy: The bladder, stomach, intestines, sex organs, eyes, and heart are affected in this type. This part of the nervous system affects just about every aspect of the body, so the symptoms may be harder to pin down. Common symptoms include:

  • Slow stomach emptying
  • Decreased sexual response
  • Bladder or bowel problems

Proximal neuropathy: The thighs, buttocks, legs, and hips are affected in this type. The chest and abdominal area may also be affected. Symptoms can include:

  • Severe stomach pain
  • Difficulty rising from a sitting position
  • Shrinking of thigh muscles
  • Severe pain in the thigh, hip, or buttock

Mononeuropathy: The cranial or peripheral nerve is targeted in this type. You may experience:

  • Aching behind one eye
  • Paralysis on one side of the face
  • Weakness in your hands
  • Difficulty focusing or double vision
  • Numbness or tingling in your hand or fingers [3]

Heart Disease, Stroke, and Blood Pressure

Those with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. There is a strong connection between high blood pressure (hypertension) and insulin resistance. As mentioned earlier, diabetes damages arteries and makes them a target for atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in arteries). Plaque buildup often leads to an increase in blood pressure. [4]

a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope

With high blood pressure, you are much more likely to develop heart disease or suffer a stroke. The American Heart Association reports that 68 percent of people over 65 with diabetes die from heart disease. Around 16 percent of older adults with diabetes die from a stroke. [5] A stroke may occur if the blood flow to the brain is obstructed. Strokes may happen if the blood vessels are clogged with plaque. These plaques may constrict the vessels and disrupt blood flow, causing damage to the brain. [6]

Type 2 can be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices. If you do develop type 2, its complications can be avoided if you follow your treatment plan and take your insulin as well as diabetic medications like Farxiga (dapagliflozin), Glucophage (metformin), or Onglyza.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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