Why is it important to control diabetes and keep blood glucose in a healthy range? When you control your diabetes and keep your blood glucose in a healthy range – you considerably decrease your risk of developing diabetes related health problems later in life.
Not sure if it’s worth the trouble? If left untreated, unhealthy levels of glucose in the blood can cause serious damage to many parts of your body. Before we explore how to control your diabetes, let’s take a look at why control is so important.
Your Heart and Blood Vessels
People with diabetes may develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than individuals without diabetes. Individuals with diabetes may have many risk factors for heart disease including high blood pressure, obesity, high amounts of fats and cholesterol in blood and cigarette smoking. The more these factors can be eliminated, the more the risk of heart disease is reduced. Blood vessel damage can also lead to poor circulation in the legs and feet.
Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to nephropathy, also known as kidney disease. The kidneys have a complex network of small blood vessels that filter waste from the blood and send it out of the body in the urine. When blood glucose and blood pressure are too high, the small blood vessels can become damaged and not filter properly. If the kidneys fail, the blood must be filtered by dialysis or require a kidney transplant.
Diabetic retinopathy is a major risk for people with diabetes. Retinopathy is damage to the tissue at the back of the eye. Diabetes can lead to changes in the tiny vessels in the retina. When blood glucose and blood pressure are too high, the tiny blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. Diabetic retinopathy is a serious condition that can lead to blindness. It is estimated that approximately 2 million people living with diabetes in Canada have some form of retinopathy. That is almost all people with diabetes. Diabetes is the single largest cause of blindness in Canada.
High blood glucose levels can damage the blood vessels that supply nourishment and oxygen to your feet. High blood glucose can also damage the nerves in the feet causing a loss of feeling (neuropathy). When the nerves in the foot are not working properly, many normal sensations like pain, heat, cold or pressure are not there. Without the normal warning system, you may not know if your feet are in trouble. Pressure, rubbing, cuts or injuries that go unnoticed can lead to injury, serious infections, and even amputations.
Without regular dental care, diabetes can lead to an increase in teeth and gum problems. If there is a loss of feeling in the mouth, cavities, infections or gum disease can go unnoticed and worsen. Decreased circulation may lead to delayed healing and dryness in the mouth.
Diabetes can affect your skin. Dry skin occurs more often with diabetes. Damage to small blood vessels and to small nerves can promote dry skin and its complications. Dryness, cracks and itching can worsen and potentially lead to infection. Rough, dry and scaly skin affects about 75% of people with diabetes over 64.
Uncontrolled diabetes may lead to nerve damage that can cause sexual dysfunction (impotence).
For men: If achieving an erect penis is difficult, you may have erectile dysfunction (ED). You are not alone: 50 percent of men will experience erectile dysfunction within six years of being diagnosed with diabetes.
For women: A common complaint is vaginal dryness, often resulting in painful intercourse. Women with diabetes can experience more frequent vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina) and yeast infections, both of which have a negative impact on sex drive.
In the Planning for a Healthy Future section you will find information on what you can do to delay or even prevent these complications. If you now have a diabetes-related complication, early diagnosis and treatment can be very effective. If you have any questions, talk to a member of your diabetes team!
There is good news for people who have diabetes – research has proven that keeping blood glucose levels close to normal helps to slow down and prevent complications.