Impact of Diabetes on a Person’s Health

In our earlier articles, we discussed about the possible causes, types of diabetes and various symptoms of diabetes. In this article, we will discuss about the complications that may arise due to diabetes. Diabetes has major impact on the tissues or organs, as they are constantly exposed to high blood sugars.

Acute disorders (short-term)

  • Hyperglycemia – This is the condition in which blood glucose levels are too high. If the blood sugar level is higher than 200mg/dl it is termed as hyperglycemia. In general levels exceeding 125mg/dl can cause organ damage.
  • Hypoglycemia – This is the condition in which blood glucose is too low. Blood sugar below 70 mg/dl or below is termed as hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Untreated hypoglycemia can lead to loss of consciousness and coma.
  • Ketoacidosis – Lack of insulin lets the body cells to depend on muscle fat for energy. When the cells start burning fat, some byproducts called ketones are released, which are acidic in nature. High levels of ketones can lead to diabetic coma or even death.
  • Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome (HHNS) – This is a serious condition which can be seen in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics. In HHNS, due to the rise of blood sugar levels, body tends to get rid of excess sugar by passing it through urine. Frequent urination leads to unquenchable thirst. If the same condition continues it leads to severe dehydration which results in seizures, coma and eventually death.

Chronic complications (long-term)

  • Eye problems – Having high blood glucose levels for long time can damage blood vessels in different parts of the body. Eyes are the sensitive organs with tiny blood vessels and hence can be damaged more quickly than the rest. Diabetes can cause many eye disorders such as:

    • Diabetic retinopathy – results due to the damage of blood vessels in retina
    • Cataract Cataract is clouding of the lens in the eye that affects the vision
    • Glaucoma – due to the increase in the fluid pressure inside the eye, the optic nerve cells get damaged which may lead to vision loss
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) – In order to lower the high glucose levels the body tends to dilute glucose with more water. For this reason the blood vessels have to hold more fluid. This increased fluid increases the pressure in the blood vessels. As a result elevated blood pressure develops. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
  • Kidney disease – High glucose levels damage the filters in the kidney, which help to clean the blood of its impurities and retaining the blood proteins inside our body. When these filters get damaged, proteins leak out of kidneys into the urine, and they fail to filter the waste and extra fluids from the blood. As a result, wastes and fluids build up in the blood and the useful proteins leave the body. This eventually leads to kidney failure. 40-50% of the diabetics develop kidney disorders/failures.
  • Nerve damage – Nerve damage or diabetic neuropathy is damage to the nerves in the body due to high blood sugar. Diabetics can develop nerve disorders at any time, but the risk increases with age and longer duration of diabetes. Based on the effects of diabetes, neuropathy is classified as:

    • Peripheral neuropathy – This is the most common type of disorder among diabetes which causes pain or loss of feeling in toes, feet, hands, and arms
    • Autonomic neuropathy – This condition causes changes in digestion, bowel and bladder function, sexual response, and perspiration. Also affects the nerves that serve heart, lungs, eyes and control blood pressure
    • Proximal neuropathy – This disorder causes pain in the thighs, hips or buttocks and leads to weakness in legs
    • Focal neuropathy – In this condition any nerve of the body can be affected which suddenly weakens nerves and cause muscle weakness
  • Joint and foot difficulties – Due to the reduced flow of blood to the body’s extremities along with nerve damage there is a reduced sensation in the joints, feet and hands. This also leads to foot ulcers.

We hope this article gives you a clear idea on the impact of diabetes on a person’s health. In the next article, we will know how to manage diabetes.

We strongly suggest you to read:
What is Diabetes
Causes and Symptoms of Diabetes
Diabetic Diet Plan for Indians


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