If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you may have anxiety or concerns about the prospect of future health complications, such as amputations, heart disease, and vision loss. But living with this disease doesn’t destine you for these unpleasant outcomes.
Preventing Type 2 Diabetes Complications
According to past research, long-term complications of type 2 diabetes can be prevented and, in some cases, reversed or slowed by a combination of:
- Blood sugar control
- Blood pressure control
- Blood cholesterol control
You should discuss your level of control (and how to maintain or improve it) with your doctor at every doctor’s appointment.
If you have been living with diabetes for several years or are older, knowing your A1C goal and levels is particularly important, because you are at a greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes complications, according to a past study.
Health Problems Linked to Type 2 Diabetes
If your blood sugar is frequently imbalanced, you may be at a greater risk for the following type 2 diabetes complications:
Cardiovascular Disease Compared with people without diabetes, people with diabetes are at a greater risk for heart disease, statistically get heart disease at a younger age, and have more severe forms of heart disease, according to the NHLBI.
The CDC points out that people with diabetes are also about twice as likely as people without diabetes to die of heart disease.
Lowering your risk for heart disease — or treating it, if you have it — involves a combination of lifestyle changes and may or may not include medication, the CDC points out.
Diabetic Retinopathy In diabetic retinopathy, high blood sugar weakens the capillaries (the tiny blood vessels) that supply the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the inner eye.
The capillaries then swell, become blocked, or leak blood into the center of the eye, blurring vision. In advanced stages, abnormal new blood vessels grow.
When these new vessels leak blood, the result can be severe vision loss or blindness, according to the American Optometric Association.
QUIZ: How Well Are You Managing Type 2 Diabetes?
Diabetic Neuropathy Neuropathy, or nerve damage, can affect any nerve in your body. Most commonly, it affects the nerves in the feet, legs, hands, and arms; this condition is called peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy can cause tingling, burning, pain, or numbness in the affected areas.
The pain of peripheral neuropathy is difficult to control, though some find topical products that contain capsaicin to be helpful.
Prescription products that may help alleviate the pain caused by peripheral neuropathy include a variety of antidepressants and anticonvulsants, per the Mayo Clinic.
Diabetic Nephropathy (Kidney Disease) In diabetic nephropathy, the nephrons (or filtering units) in the kidneys become damaged from chronic high blood sugar.
High blood pressure compounds the problem, and high cholesterol appears to contribute to it as well.
In the early stages of diabetic nephropathy, you may not notice any symptoms, but standard blood and urine tests can detect early signs of dysfunction, and early treatment can stop or slow its progression.
As many as 25 percent of people with diabetes may develop kidney disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Diabetic Ulcer People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing foot ulcers (open sores).
A diabetic ulcer is often painless, and people may not even know they have them at first.
These foot ulcers can take several weeks to heal, and are a primary reason for hospital stays among people with diabetes.
If you have diabetes, the Mayo Clinic emphasizes the importance of examining your feet and legs regularly. This way, you can better identify diabetic ulcers and if needed get prompt treatment.
If you have diabetes, you may also deal with sexual issues, gum disease, sleep apnea, and red or brown lesions (diabetic dermopathy).
Learn More About the Most Common Diabetes Complications and How to Prevent Them