The long term damage and complications of uncontrolled diabetes include:
- RETINOPATHY – eye damage
High blood sugar levels can damage in the blood vessels in the retina by causing them to swell or leak. The symptoms could be: sudden changes in vision, distorted vision, blurred vision, floaters in your vision, seeing dark spots or patches, a reduction in night vision, or a total loss of vision.
- NEPHROPATHY – kidney disease
Blood carries your body’s waste through your bloodstream, to the kidneys. The kidneys filters waste from the blood and then expels it from the body through urination. High levels of glucose in the blood affect the ability of your kidneys to do their work well.
- NEUROPATHY- nerve damage
High blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) damages the blood vessels that supply your nerves. A lack of blood supply to your nerves causes diabetic nerve pain that usually occurs in peripheral extremities, such as feet and legs, hands and arms. The symptoms are: prickling or tingling feelings, burning sensations and sharp and stabbing or shooting pains in those areas.
- HEART DISEASE AND STROKE
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are closely linked with diabetes and they are two main causes of heart disease and stroke.
The effects of diabetes on the nervous system and blood vessels can also lead to problems such as digestion issues, sexual dysfunction and slow wound healing.
Untreated diabetes often leads to dental problems. Since diabetes reduces the blood supply to the gums, diabetics are more likely to develop infections of their gums and the bones that hold their teeth in place. High blood sugar levels can also lead to a decrease in saliva production. Having a dry mouth increases the probability that gum disease will develop or worsen.
Free radicals and oxidative stress
Lately, researchers have been exploring the relationship between oxidative stress and diabetes, and a connection between the two is becoming clearer.
What is oxidative stress? Think of the atoms in our bodies as a solar system: the nucleus of the atom is the sun, and all the electrons around the nucleus are the planets that orbit around the sun. Every planet is essential because it contributes to the stability of the system through gravity. If one of the planets was to disappear, the system would become unstable. In the body, whenever one of the electrons around the nucleus leaves, the atom becomes unstable, meaning it’s a free radical.
As more atoms become free radicals, a process called oxidative stress begins to happen. This process has been proven to be the cause of aging and a range of diseases.
Various studies have linked oxidative stress caused by free radicals to diabetes. Today, the only ways we know to reduce free radicals are limiting alcohol, red meat and high glycemic foods, and by not smoking.
This complication is usually seen in individuals with diabetes type 1 diabetes, but sometimes people with diabetes type 2 can also encounter ketoacidosis.
Whenever our body lacks enough glycogen to make energy, it breaks fatty acids to use as fuel. As fat cells are broken down, a byproduct called ‘ketone bodies’ are produced, ending up in the bloodstream and raising sugar levels. The high level of acidity that the ketones add to the blood can cause several symptoms such as extreme thirst, frequent urination, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, tiredness, smelly breath, shortness of breath and feelings of confusion.