Chronic high blood sugar can cause damage to various organs such as the eyes (Retinopathy), nerves (Peripheral Neuropathy), kidneys (Nephropathy), the blood vessels in the heart (Cardiovascular Disease) and the brain (Stroke):
Damage to the blood vessels in the back of the eye called retinopathy, may cause bleeding, visual problems and ultimately result in blindness. Good glucose control, regular eye examinations (screening), early diagnosis and laser treatment can prevent severe vision loss.
High blood glucose levels can damage the nerves in the legs and feet (peripheral neuropathy) causing loss of feeling, pain, ulceration and sometimes even amputation of the feet. Severe neuropathy can also affect the blood pressure, heart rate, the digestive system and might cause erectile dysfunction. Several research studies indicate that by maintaining good glucose control these complications can be prevented.
Uncontrolled diabetes can also lead to kidney damage, called nephropathy that can eventually result in kidney failure which may require dialysis and kidney transplant. By achieving good blood pressure and blood glucose control and by the use of specific drugs including ACEI (Angiotensin- Converting Enzyme Inhibitors) and ARB (Angiotensin Receptor Blockers) it is possible to reduce and sometimes even reverse the development of diabetes nephropathy, which otherwise is a progressive disease.
Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke
More often diabetes is associated with other disease states such as high blood pressure, abnormal blood lipids, and obesity. These conditions as well as additional risk factors like smoking and lack of physical activity increase the risk 2-4 fold for a diabetic patient to fall victim to heart disease or stroke. Patients with diabetes should stop smoking, eat healthy, exercise and control their blood pressure and blood lipids along with the blood sugar in order to prevent these complications.