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SYMPTOMS OF DIABETES
Many people with diabetes do not have any symptoms, meaning that it can go undetected for many years. This is especially so in those with Type II diabetes, gestational diabetes and the pre-diabetic forms. It is therefore important to have yourself screened for diabetes.
In those with significantly high blood sugar levels, the symptoms may include:
• increase in amount and frequency of urination, including waking up at night to pass urine
• increased hunger and excessive thirst
• weight loss despite eating well
• tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
• blurred vision
• slow-healing skin wounds
• frequent infections
COMPLICATIONS OF DIABETES
Over time, high blood glucose levels cause damage to the nerves and blood vessels (both large and small), leading to damage to the various organs.
Acute complications are generally related to acutely high or low blood glucose levels.
Diabetic Ketoacidosis – (glucose levels are very high)
This occurs when there is insufficient insulin to convert glucose into energy. The result is that the body then uses fat as an energy source. This produces ketones, a substance which is harmful to the body.
Symptoms include severe thirst, passing large volumes of urine, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, often together with abdominal pain. This condition requires immediate medical attention.
Hypoglycaemia – (glucose levels fall below 4.0 mmol/L)
This usually occurs either when diabetic medication dose is too high, or if there is insufficient caloric intake or sudden excessive physical exertion.
Symptoms of hypoglycaemia include dizziness, confusion, weakness, tremors, sweating and anxiety. Severe hypoglycaemia can lead to coma, seizures and irreversible brain death.
Chronic complications are related to damaged nerves and blood vessels, which occur slowly over time.
Eye complications (Diabetic Retinopathy):
Diseased small blood vessels cause leakage of protein and blood in the retina. Small aneurysms and new but brittle blood vessels (neovascularization) can also occur. Spontaneous bleeding from these abnormal blood vessels can compromise vision. Cataracts and glaucoma are also more common in diabetics. A person with diabetes is 25 times more likely to become blind compared to a non-diabetic.
Kidney complications (Diabetic Nephropathy):
Initially, there is leakage of protein in the urine. Later on, there may be progress to renal failure, in which the kidneys can no longer cleanse and filter the blood. When this happens, dialysis will be required.
Nerve damage (Diabetic Neuropathy):
Symptoms of nerve damage include numbness, burning and aching of the feet and lower limbs. This can eventually lead to the so called “diabetic foot”. The loss of sensation leads to the failure of recognizing and protecting the foot from injury. Because of poor blood circulation, minor injuries may not heal and serious infections can occur. Diabetes is the top cause of lower limb amputations.
Nerve damage can also cause erectile dysfunction and gastroparesis (delayed emptying of the stomach).
This hardening and narrowing of large blood vessels (atherosclerosis) can lead to coronary heart disease (angina and heart attacks), strokes and claudication (pain in the legs on walking due to reduced blood supply to the legs).
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