The ADA “Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes” includes the current clinical practice recommendations and is intended to provide the components of diabetes care, general treatment goals and guidelines, and tools to evaluate quality of care. The Standards are updated at least once a year – sometimes more frequently.
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Diabetes is the most common cause of blindness, kidney disease, and amputations. It’s a major risk factor for heart disease and can reduce lifespan by up to 10 years. The main driver for these complications is high blood sugar, known as hyperglycemia, over a long period of time.
It’s true that many diabetes complications cannot be reversed once they take place. However, most can be delayed or prevented when you actively participate in your health care.
Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the most common cause of death in people with diabetes.
- It is caused by narrowing of the body’s blood vessels by plaque, known as atherosclerosis.
- (Think of a clogged drain.)
- When not enough blood makes it to the brain it can lead to a stroke.
- When not enough blood makes it to the heart it can lead to a heart attack.
- When not enough blood makes it to the limbs it can lead to peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is the narrowing of blood vessels farther away from the heart. PAD leads to foot ulcers, amputations, leg pain, and can slow wound healing.
- When blood flow to the legs and feed are reduced it can cause the skin to form cracks known as ulcers.
- Ulcers and PAD can lead to amputations.
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and End Stage Kidney/Renal Disease (ESRD or ESKD) happen when there is damage to the kidney. It can lead to total kidney failure and dialysis.
Diabetic Retinopathy occurs when vessels in the eye become leaky and blocked.
- Fluid build up and higher pressure in the eyes can lead to glaucoma, damaged blood vessels, retinal detachment, and blindness.
- Diabetes is the most common cause of blindness in the world. In fact, people with diabetes are 25 times more likely to become blind.
Diabetic nerve disease, or neuropathy, occurs when the nerves in the body become damaged.
- It is the most common cause of amputations and leads to more hospitalizations than every other complication combined.
- Since nerves are responsible for so many tasks diabetic nerve damage can affect almost every part of the body depending on which nerves are damaged.
- The most common type of neuropathy affects the fingers and toes. It is called diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Other complications of diabetes include:
- Carpal tunnel, trigger finger, frozen shoulder, osteoarthritis
- Bone fractures
- Low testosterone in men
- Autoimmune conditions like celiac disease and thyroid disorders in those with type 1
- Fatty liver disease
- Hearing impairments
- Dental disease
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- High blood sugar emergencies like Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) and hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS).
- Low blood sugar emergencies like hypogylcemic comas
Fortunately, controlling high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, and participating in an active lifestyle can reduce the chances of suffering from diabetes complications. Join Glucose Guards to learn more.
The complications of diabetes may sound scary but keeping your blood sugar controlled can improve the way you feel and reduce the chances of developing complications. For complications that already exist, good lifestyle and screening measures can stop those complications from getting worse.
- The four most important things you can do are: exercise more, eat healthier, lose weight if overweight or obese, quit smoking if you smoke.
A majority of diabetes complications stem from 2 causes- chronic high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, and high blood pressure, or hypertension.
- Controlling blood pressure can reduce the risk of stroke by nearly 40% and risk of heart disease by more than 15%.
Certain medications can also have a profound impact on the course of diabetes.
- Medications like aspirin, statins, SGLT-2 inhibitors, GLP-1 agonists, ACE inhibitors, and ARBs can help prevent heart and kidney disease.
Because diabetes complications are often not felt until they are irreversible, it is incredibly important to take the appropriate screening tests to catch complications early. Most guidelines recommend the following tests regularly:
- Urine-protein screen
- Lipid panel
- Hemoglobin A1c
- Dilated eye exam
- Dental exam
- Blood pressure screen
- Daily self-foot exams
- Annual comprehensive foot exam
- Vaccinations are instructed by your healthcare provider
Join Glucose Guards to learn more about preventing the complications of diabetes and to get your Yearly Diabetes Care List.