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Tuesday, 12 November 2013 | MYT 9:44 AM

Top 10 scary risks faced by diabetics

PETALING JAYA: Diabetes is a chronic and potentially fatal disease which affects your whole body. Millions of Malaysians have diabetes, and the worrying fact is that a percentage of affected Malaysians are not even aware that they are diabetic.

Not knowing you have diabetes is a huge risk, because badly controlled diabetes can lead to numerous scary complications. This article shares the 10 scary things you may not know about this killer-disease.

1. Psychiatric disorders

Diabetics may experience many different emotions such as anxiety, anger and depression. Patients risk suffering from psychiatric disorders such as delirium, substance abuse, mood disorders and anxiety disorders. That is why managing your mental health will therefore lead to better diabetes control.

Quitting smoking can help improve blood flow which helps to prevent several diabetes complications.

2. Nerve damage

Uncontrolled diabetes may result in nerve damage. The high blood glucose damages nerves in the arms, hands, legs and feet. If left untreated, diabetics could lose all sense of feeling in affected limbs. Patients should watch out for the loss of feeling in their feet, numbness (pins and needles), tingling and burning sensations, and muscle weakness. You can better prevent this by practising good blood glucose control, regular exercise and by quitting smoking.

Foot complications such as gangrene may lead to foot amputation.

3. Foot complications

Nerve damage and damage of the blood vessels in the legs and feet of diabetics cause poor circulation, which leads to patients developing foot problems. An innocent blister on your foot can become a serious infection if left untreated. Severe damage may lead to a toe, foot or leg amputation.

4. Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is when the muscles of the stomach stop functioning properly. It is a condition that reduces the ability of the stomach to empty its contents, and it does not involve a blockage or obstruction.

Kidney disease may lead to diabetic patients having to go through frequent dialysis treatments.

5. Eye complications

Diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the retina, which may lead to blindness. People with diabetes may also develop eye problems like glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. If your eyesight is becoming blur, if you see shadows or floating spots, or if you're having trouble seeing at night, you should consult your doctor immediately.

6. Kidney disease

High blood glucose levels due to poor control can lead to your kidneys being overworked, which can lead to kidney disease. Severe cases can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, requiring patients to undergo dialysis or a kidney transplant. Signs of kidney problems can be increasing amounts of protein in urine; water retention in ankles, abdomen and chest; foul taste in the mouth; vomiting; and tiredness throughout the day.

7. Hypertension (High blood pressure)

Due to the hardening and narrowing of the arteries, a diabetic's heart has to pump harder than normal and this builds up pressure against the artery walls. Symptoms of this are frequent headaches, blurring vision and shortness of breath. To reduce the effects of this complication, you should eat a low-fat and high-fibre diet, exercise regularly, quit smoking and keep a healthy weight.

Diabetics are at risk of heart complications such as heart attacks.

8. Heart complications

Diabetes causes an increased narrowing of the arteries and also the hardening of the arteries which slows down blood flow. Diabetics are at risk of heart problems such as coronary artery disease (when the blood supply to the heart muscle is diminished), which is the main cause of heart attacks.

9. Stroke

Diabetics can suffer from strokes when the blood flow to the brain is blocked. This happens due to the hardening and narrowing of the arteries in the brain. If one's blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood glucose levels are not controlled, the risk of stroke increases significantly.

10. Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome (HHNS)

HHNS is where blood glucose levels shoot up too high and your body tries to get rid of the excess sugar by passing it through your urine. The symptoms include high blood sugar levels over 600mg/dl; dry and parched mouth; extreme thirst; high fever; warm and dry skin; sleepiness or confusion; loss of vision; hallucinations; dehydration; and weakness on one side of the body.

This potentially life-threatening emergency condition mostly occurs in older persons with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes which is not controlled properly. It is often an onset of a serious illness or infection. If HHNS continues, it can lead to severe dehydration, causing seizures, coma and eventually death.

Other risks of diabetes include skin complications, gum disease, erectile dysfunction, Alzheimer’s disease, and ketoacidosis.

- The information above was provided by the National Diabetes Institute, American Diabetes Association and Mayo Clinic.

Come join The Star, The Star Online and thousands of others on Nov 14 – World Diabetes Day 2013 – and pledge to reduce your daily sugar intake for a minimum one week.

From today until Nov 21,
The Star Online will be running the Reduce Sugar Pledge campaign to raise awareness about the impact uncontrolled blood sugar levels can have on the large population of Malaysian pre-diabetics and diabetics.

You or your family can make pledges to control your blood sugar level during this period. With an estimated one-in-five Malaysians being diabetic, there’s a good chance this action might help save your life!

Just say it as it is; no sugar-coating required!

Take part in our interactive discussions on
The Star Online’s official Twitter (@thestaronline) and Facebook pages (The Star Online) with #ReduceSugar. You can e-mail your pledge to online@thestar.com.my.

We'll also have many informative articles on diabetes during this period in both
The Star and The Star Online website.

> Selected contributions will be published in the newspaper and online to encourage more people to adopt the pledge.

Tags / Keywords: Health , World Diabetes Day , Top 10


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