The life-changing cons of diabetes – Delaware Gazette
Will you give up your sight for a candy bar? How about a kidney for a piece of cake? Most people would laugh at the idea of ââsomeone saying yes to these offers. But if you’re struggling to manage your diabetes, your nutrition and lifestyle choices could have a serious and damaging impact on your health. Yes, it could be so bad.
With diabetes, blood vessels throughout the body are slowly damaged by uncontrolled blood sugar levels. When the blood vessels that connect to the retina in your eye are damaged, they can leak or bleed and the result is a condition called diabetic retinopathy. Your eyes will try to form new vessels, but these are weak and ineffective, resulting in further vision loss.
In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults between the ages of 20 and 74, and more than half of the diabetic population will eventually develop this disease (National Eye Institute). You may be at high risk for diabetic retinopathy if you have uncontrolled blood sugar as well as high blood pressure, kidney disease, high cholesterol and / or if you smoke.
Your kidneys are also likely to damage blood vessels, leading to complete kidney failure in 10-40% of adults with type 2 diabetes (Kidney.org). Since your kidneys play a vital role in filtering waste and removing excess fluid from the body, something has to replace this function. At first, this means a strict diet for kidney diabetics, but when the kidneys fail, dialysis or transplantation becomes necessary.
Patients who are aware of declining kidney function may feel they have plenty of time to make changes. But often progressive kidney failure occurs quickly, and any visit to your doctor may result in a screening that says you need to go on dialysis immediately. Your lifestyle can change in an instant!
Dialysis can greatly affect your ability to participate in normal activities. With treatments needed as frequently as every three days and lasting three to five hours each, precious time is being stolen from you. Your ability to walk away from a dialysis unit is also limited. In addition, life expectancy decreases considerably for dialysis patients.
Many people think that a kidney transplant is an easy fix these days, but the requirements for getting on a transplant list can be strict. Strict blood sugar control and a healthy BMI are often required. The average wait for a kidney can be up to five years and often a patient has expired before receiving that phone call.
It doesn’t have to happen to you! A nutritious diet along with even moderate exercise (even if just walking) and medications such as insulin can help control blood sugar levels and reduce damage to the body’s blood vessels. It is also important to manage high blood pressure and to quit smoking.
Taking control of your diabetes today can lower your risk for diabetic retinopathy and end-stage kidney disease. Talk to your healthcare professional about managing your diabetes regularly and ask for a referral to an endocrinologist if results do not improve. You can do this with a little help, but it all starts with being willing to come to terms with your diabetes and learning how to manage it before it takes over.
Dr. Jane Graebner is the founder of the Foot and Ankle Wellness Center in Delaware. She has been a podiatrist for 40 years and president of the Delaware County Diabetes Association.