Whether you’ve been living with diabetes for a long period of time or have recently been diagnosed, it can be overwhelming to deal with daily. Diabetes can be managed effectively when it’s diagnosed early: however, if left untreated it can lead to several complications. In this blog post, we’re going to discuss the impact diabetes can have on your overall health, specifically how it can affect the nervous system, heart, kidneys and eyesight. It’s important to make sure your diabetes is properly managed so that you avoid these diabetic complications.
First, let’s look at the two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Both types of diabetes are chronic diseases that affect the way your body regulates blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is the fuel that feeds your body’s cells, but to enter your cells it needs insulin. People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin. People with type 2 diabetes don’t respond to insulin as well as they should and later in the disease, often don’t make enough insulin. It’s important to note that type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, but you can lower your risk for developing type 2 by making changes to your lifestyle. Now, let’s look at the how diabetes can affect your body.
How Diabetes Affects the Nervous System
The diabetic complication we deal with most often at NJ Spine and Wellness is neuropathy or damage to the nerves. According to the University of Chicago’s Center for Peripheral Neuropathy, approximately 60 percent of people with diabetes have some sort of nerve damage typically due to high blood sugar levels. Neuropathy is a result of damage to your peripheral nerves, which often causes weakness, numbness and pain. It typically occurs in your hands and feet, but it can affect other areas of your body as well.
Many neuropathy patients experience a tingling or pins and needles sensation in their feet and hands. This is a red flag that the nerves are not functioning normally. When neuropathy worsens, an inpidual may lose complete feeling in different parts of their body. It can also alter people’s perception of heat, cold, and pain, which can lead to injury.
Unfortunately, neuropathy can be a very difficult condition to treat. Physical therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture and platelet-rich plasma injections (PRP) can all be helpful treatments to relieve neuropathy symptoms and make it more manageable. At NJ Spine and Wellness, we offer patients a multifaceted approach to get the best outcome possible.
Diabetes can also lead to diabetic retinopathy, which is swollen, leaky blood vessels in the eye. This can damage your vision and symptoms can be mild at first, so it’s important for diabetes patients to see an eye doctor regularly as well.
The Impact Diabetes Has on the Heart
Heart disease and blood vessel disease are common problems for many people who are not properly managing their diabetes. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, diabetes doubles a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke. Diabetes raises your risk of developing high blood pressure, which puts further strain on your heart. When you have high blood glucose levels, this can contribute to the formation of fatty deposits in blood vessel walls. Over time, it can restrict blood flow and increase the risk of atherosclerosis, which is a hardening of the blood vessels.
Lack of blood flow can eventually affect your hands and feet and cause pain while you’re walking, which is called intermittent claudication. The narrowed blood vessels in your legs and feet may also cause problems in those areas. Diabetes also increases your risk of developing infections or ulcers of the foot. Poor blood flow and nerve damage increases the likelihood of having a foot or leg amputated. If you have diabetes, it’s critical that you take good care of your feet and get them checked by your doctor often.
In addition to monitoring and controlling your blood glucose, healthy eating habits and regular exercise can help lower the risk of high blood pressure and other heart-related complications.
Kidney-Related Issues Caused by Diabetes
Diabetes can also damage your kidneys and affect their ability to filter waste products from your blood. Kidney disease related to diabetes is called diabetic nephropathy. Your doctor will check for elevated amounts of protein in your urine as that can be a sign your kidneys aren’t functioning properly. It’s important to be evaluated for this to prevent irreversible kidney damage or failure. The best way to slow or prevent diabetes-related kidney disease is to try to work to meet your blood glucose and blood pressure goals. Taking your medicine and incorporating healthy lifestyle habits including proper nutrition and staying active is key to preventing kidney-related issues and improving your overall health.
Diabetes’ Impact on Eyesight
According to WebMD, diabetes is the leading cause of new vision loss among adults ages 20 to 74 in the U.S. It can lead to eye problems including glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina). It may only cause mild symptoms at first, but it can lead to blindness. It’s important to see your eye doctor for regular exams so any issues can be treated right away. The best way to prevent vision loss is through careful management of your diabetes.
Take Charge of Your Health
While the complications related to diabetes may seem nerve-wracking, many of the conditions can be prevented by properly managing your diabetes. This includes a healthy, balanced diet, exercise, regularly checking your blood sugar levels and being seen regularly by your doctors. One of the best things you can do to reduce diabetes symptoms is to improve your diet, get the proper nutrition and be active. Eating well and being physically active keep your blood glucose level, blood pressure and cholesterol in your target ranges. It will also give you more energy and help you to feel better overall. If you need help making adjustments, working with a nutritionist can guide you on what foods you can eat vs. what you need to limit, portion sizes and meal planning. When it comes to diabetes, making these lifestyle adjustments is the best way to help yourself and take charge of your health.
NJ Spine and Wellness is here to help you deal with any complications from your diabetes. Our team of physical therapists can work with patients experiencing conditions, such as neuropathy and other types of nerve damage. Our nutritional team can create a customized treatment plan for you to get on track with healthy eating habits and incorporating exercise into your daily routine. Additionally, our doctors who focus on functional medicine can also help to identify the root cause of your diabetes to come up with a treatment plan that can help alleviate your symptoms. With our multidisciplinary approach, NJ Spine and Wellness is here to help you manage your diabetes so you can live and enjoy your life. To schedule an appointment with one of our NJ Spine and Wellness team members please call 877-333-6579 today.