Treatment of uncontrolled diabetes can be very tiresome. But when one considers the benefits from regulating the effects of uncontrolled diabetes, one can clearly see the difference in the quality of life that ensures.
This article wants to present the insidious dangers, as well as the symptoms of uncontrolled diabetes and the related risks to your body.
By a survey from the International Diabetes Federation, almost 378,000,000 people worldwide had diabetes in 2014. From a research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 29.1 million individuals with diabetes live in the United States.
And 8.1 million of those in the U.S. are undiagnosed, meaning they aren’t even aware of the disease.
How Does Our Body Work?
Glucose is a major source of energy for the human body. We get our glucose from the food we ingest, specifically, from sugars in our food.
Now, when we consume nutrients, our digestive system, our stomach specifically, disintegrates the food into glucose. Our stomach then sends the glucose into our blood so that it can be spread out through the cells in our body where we need energy. This is how the body creates blood sugar.
Glucose is essential for the functioning of our organs, no matter if they are muscles, kidneys, brain, skin, etc. They all rely on glucose to provide them with energy.
And How Does the Glucose Reach Our Cells?
Well, glucose transfers through the blood with the help of insulin, a hormone released from the pancreas. Its job is to deliver the glucose to the cells that require energy.
But how does uncontrolled diabetes comes into play?
Recognizing Uncontrolled Diabetes
Diabetes comes in two flavors, type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
With diabetes named as type 1, the pancreas of the patients fails to create sufficient amount of insulin in their bodies. It can produce a tiny amount of insulin or can produce no insulin. The bottom line is that the cells in the pancreas cannot satisfy the body’s needs.
The result is a significant amount of glucose trapped in our blood stream. It can ultimately create a blood sugar overload.
As a predominantly genetic disease, it’s most common patients are children and young adults.
Type 2 Diabetes
This kind of diabetes is the most common type. It takes the lion’s share of 90% of all adults who have diabetes.
In this type of diabetes, the pancreas can successfully produce the insulin, but the cells in your body, for various reasons, are unable to use it properly. Medicine calls this phenomenon “insulin resistance.”
In the unfortunate event of insulin resistance of the body, the pancreas starts to increase its production of insulin to allow the cells a proper supply of it. However, this rarely happens.
As the cells receive more and more insulin, they become more and more resistant to it, which in turn only creates a spiral of health hazards that create more and more sugar in our blood levels.
And excess blood sugar levels are dangerous for our organs. Uncontrolled diabetes will allow the glucose in our blood to remain there for far too long and often cause permanent and irreversible damage to our organs.
In the next pages, we will see how uncontrolled diabetes can damage your heart, nerves, kidneys, eyes, brain and teeth.
A study from 2011 published in Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine found that the risk of heart attack in people with diabetes can increase from 100% to 400% (4 fold).
This study also examined other risks related to cardiovascular health and found that the risk ratio is also same for coronary artery disease, heart failure, and death from cardiovascular complications.
The study also notes that patients with uncontrolled diabetes that are of younger age also share the same risks ratios.
Coronary Artery Disease
The Coronary Artery Disease can develop for many other reasons other than diabetes. However, in diabetic patients, it grows much more rapidly.
It starts with high levels of blood sugar. The sugar in your blood has extremely negative impact on the arteries that provide oxygen enriched blood to your heart.
In turn, this can cause more and more cholesterol buildup in the arteries, eventually shrinking the flow of blood through them.
Over time, the arteries become more and more clogged, depriving the heart of oxygen, and eventually, causing a heart attack.
Coronary Artery Disease, can also develop from numerous other factors, most common including High cholesterol, obesity in the abdomen and high blood pressure.
High LDL Cholesterol
More commonly known as the “bad” cholesterol, the low-density lipoprotein tends to settle in the arteries and cause coronary artery disease.
Excess fat that accumulates around the abdomen can equally tend to increase the bad cholesterol. As we said earlier, the bad cholesterol is a major factor in the development of coronary artery disease.
High Blood Pressure
The pressure in the blood vessels that pass through the heart can create damage in the blood and can cause a severe strain. This can also increase the risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack.
Nerves are sending the instructions from our brain to the organs in our body, allowing us to move quickly, see, hear, breathe and more.
But for patients with uncontrolled diabetes, nerves are a common point of damage. According to research from the American Family Physician, published in 2005, almost 50% of patients with diabetes in the United States have as some point suffered nerve damage.
The cause of nerve damage lies in the increase of blood sugar levels. The sugar levels hamper the signals (or rather vibrations) that nerves send to the organs.
But the increased blood sugar doesn’t stop there. It can also irritate the tissues of blood capillaries that transfer blood to various other organs of the body.
Less and less blood for the nerves means two things: less oxygen and fewer nutrients to the nerves. At this point, nerve damage is imminent and can be severe.
Nerve disorders usually entail different symptoms, depending on the part of the body that is affected. This parts can include your hands, legs, and reproductive organs.
Two types of nerve damage are common in diabetics, sensory motor damage, peripheral damage and autonomic nerve damage.
Sensory-motor and Peripheral Damage
Patients of this kind of disorder usually experience symptoms like burning and tingling sensation, increased overall sensitivity, cramps, numbness, sharp pain, weakening of the muscles, and a decrease in the sense of balance and coordination.
Autonomic Nerve Damage
Autonomic nerve damage can include a range of symptoms, namely: constipation, bladder problems, vaginal dryness, erectile dysfunction, visual eye problems (difficulties adjusting to a dark lit room), increased heart rate, fainting, and dizziness.
Our kidneys can filter various waste materials from our blood and then empty them from our bodies through urine.
The blood that gets filtrated with our kidneys also contains beneficial ingredients like red blood cells and proteins. Our kidneys cannot filter these substances, and they remain in our veins, helping our body.
But when uncontrolled diabetes is present, it can cause significant damage to the filters of our kidneys. Over time, this will cause a complete suppression of the filtration process.
And this is important because without successfully filtrating our urine, we can no longer contain the proteins in our blood, and instead, they will escape our bodies through our urine.
Many disorders arise from the failure of the kidneys to filter our urine. The most common ones are microalbuminuria and diabetic nephropathy.
Often, the occurrence of microalbuminuria can be a predecessor of kidney failure not that far in the future. It all starts as an overabundance of the protein albumin in our urine.
The most typical case of progressive kidney disease is diabetes-induced kidney disease, called diabetic nephropathy. In this stage, our kidneys are nonfunctioning and can not support us in any way any longer.
It will take a lot of time for kidney damage to occur. High blood pressure, can also contribute substantially in aiding the development of kidney failure.
Our eyes are one of the most sensitive parts of our body. As such they are very susceptible to every type of change and disturbance to the body.
Individuals who have diabetes (both type one and two) have an increased danger of blindness. This phenomenon has been thoroughly researched and noted by the British Medical Journal, in a study from 2015.
Apart from blindness, uncontrolled diabetes can increase the danger of Cataract, Glaucoma, but also to diabetes-specific diseases like diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema.
By helping these conditions to appear, diabetes can also cause irreversible damage to your eyes.
Now, let’s take a look at each disorder individually.
People with diabetes have from anywhere from double to quadruple chance of developing cataract more than individuals who don’t have diabetes. The cataract attacks the natural lens of the eye by clouding them and causing blurred vision.
Cataract is the most common predecessor to blindness. A cataract usually occurs in folks older than 40 years. But with diabetes, you just have to watch out for it all the time.
Glaucoma can also cause blindness. It arises when various factors that are related to blood circulation start building up pressure in the eye socket, near the optic nerve.
The optic nerve connects the brain with the eyes. By applying pressure to the nerve, a permanent destruction of your eye vision is possible.
The presence of high levels of sugar in your blood can also hinder your eyesight. They can do this by damaging the blood vessels that are in the retina, which is a tissue that wraps around the eye. Effects of diabetic retinopathy are blindness, vision damage, and vision loss.
Diabetic Macular Edema
This type of visual disorder usually develops after a diabetic retinopathy. The macula is a part of the retina that is in charge of tasks that require straight vision like reading, writing and driving a vehicle.
Due to complications with the retina, the macula gets filled with fluid that hinders straight vision. This condition results in additional vision loss.
As a central organ in the functioning of our bodies, the brain is in charge of the processing of information and memory. The essence of the brain is white matter.
And by losing a part of the brain matter, we can seriously undermine our cognitive capacity and even experience a decline in our mental capabilities.
A study from Diabetologia, published in 2007, discovered that type 1 diabetes patients, tested in a neuropsychological check up had significantly reduced their brain’s white matter.
When asked to perform design and drawing tests, they had decreased performance in average and had a tendency to process the information they receive more slowly.
Type 2 patients also have increased risk of brain damage. Diabetes can hamper their mental abilities and can even affect their performance of cognitive functions.
A common tendency for these kinds of patients is progressive cerebrovascular disease as well as cognitive impairment.
Cerebrovascular disorder hampers the proper blood flow to the brain. The cause originates in the consistent high blood pressure, which shrinks the blood vessels that are supplying blood to the brain, causing the disease.
When blood vessels from the brain shrink and narrow their flow due to increased blood pressure, it can also cause brain strokes.
There are two types of brain strokes, a major stroke, and a mini-stroke. However, don’t let the names fool you. They are both very undesirable for your brain.
Vascular Cognitive Impairment
The other common disease that occurs in type 2 diabetes is the vascular cognitive impairment. It is a condition that undermines a person’s memory, similarly to Alzheimer’s disease.
However, this disease can also impair problem-solving, retention abilities and information processing.
Your oral health also suffers from increased blood sugar. Healthy blood can fight infections very effectively, but when your blood contains an excessive amount of sugar, bad things happened.
Your teeth are a magnet for diseases and disorders like tooth decay, gingivitis, cavities, and periodontitis.
Let’s take a look at each of them.
Tooth Decay and Cavities
The mouth is a home to many bacteria that can create plaque on your teeth. The high levels of sugar in your blood can undoubtedly help the bacteria by adding additional enamel damage from excess glucose.
And if we couple this with bad oral hygiene, the plaque on your teeth can continue to spread and harden. As time goes, eventually the plaque will erode the enamel of the teeth, which is a type of protective layer that protects the teeth from decay and cavities.
As we said earlier, diabetes hinders the natural ability of the body to defend against bacteria and infections. Additionally, if you also practice bad oral hygiene, can cause plaque to appear on your teeth enamel.
Apart from causing tooth decay and cavities, this will also irritate the area of the gum that is at the bottom of the teeth called “gingival.” The results will be swelling and bleeding.
Following the development of gingivitis, a more severe and advanced condition called “periodontitis” emerges, attacking the tissue that supports the teeth, as well as the bone itself. It will cause the infected teeth to fall out.
Apart from these four disorders, smaller, less severe disorders may appear. These include white patches on the area of the tongue (oral thrush) and so-called “burning mouth syndrome.”