Complications of Diabetes.

This week I will focus on the complications of diabetes. Complications of diabetes refer to ways in which diabetes can affect the body. Understanding this helps to understand why diabetes is bad for you and needs to be adequately treated. The complications can be classified as acute or chronic complications.

Acute complications happen at any time. This can be due to low glucose (hypoglycaemia) or high glucose (hyperglycaemia). The symptoms of low blood sugar include the following, sweating, palpitations, dizziness, headache, confusion, seizures and eventually coma if the low glucose is not corrected. Persistent low blood glucose can lead to brain damage. 

When the blood glucose is high acutely it can lead to a life-threatening complication known as Diabetic Ketoacidosis. This can be precipitated by an infection or missing out of insulin. This leads to dangerously high levels of blood glucose and an increase in blood ketones. This constitutes a medical emergency and requires in hospital treatment.

Chronic complications on the other hand develop gradually over time and can lead to serious complications if untreated or undetected. These complications include eye problems, referred to as retinopathy. If this is picked up early during screen tests it can be treated and prevent loss of vision.

Another long-term complication due to diabetes is neuropathy. Diabetes over time cause damage to the nerves. The nerves affected are often in the hands and feet, single large nerves and nerves that control the internal organs. When the nerves in the hands and feet are affected often patients have a burning sensation or a sensation of pins and needles.

Nerve damage in the feet can predispose on to develop diabetic foot. There is decreased feeling in the feet making it easier for one to easily get injured. There is also an increased susceptibility to infection and poor wound healing that is cause by the high glucose levels. Severe diabetic foot with uncontrolled infection can lead to amputation of the leg. Diabetic foot can be prevented by controlling the blood glucose. It is also important for people with diabetes to always wear closed shoes to avoid injury to the feet, they must also dry the spaces between the toes after bathing as the moisture is a breeding area for infections and finally, they must keep their feet away from heaters or fire to prevent them from burning as they have decreased sensation.

Diabetes over time also affects the bloods vessels supplying blood to the brain, kidneys and the heart. This can the eventually predispose the patients to develop heart attacks, stroke and kidney failure.

Complications of diabetes are the reason why it is associated with an increased morbidity and mortality. It is essential to screen for complications and pick them up early. These complications can be prevented by strict diabetic control.


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