Diabetes does not only affect your pancreas. The condition affects you right from your head to your toes. If you are unable to control your blood sugar levels properly, then this can cause many types of health issues over a period of time. The longer you have had diabetes, the more likely it is that you are going to develop other complications from diabetes. This is why it is so important that you learn about the potential complications and long-term effects caused by type 2 diabetes and take the appropriate steps required to prevent them from developing. In this comprehensive article, we take a look at some of the long-term effects of type 2 diabetes and how to prevent them.

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Long-Term Effects of Type 2 Diabetes

Cardiovascular Disease

Over a period of time, uncontrolled blood glucose or blood sugar levels are likely to cause damage to your arteries. At the same time, diabetes is also known to increase the levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or the 'bad' cholesterol in your body, along with the levels of triglycerides as well. LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are both known to clog up your arteries, thereby increasing the risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

Due to these reasons, people who have diabetes are much more prone to developing cardiovascular disease. To prevent your risk of heart disease, you need to address the primary risk factors of heart disease.

The prevention steps would include management of your blood pressure and keeping your cholesterol levels under control. Maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise or some level of physical activity, and eating a healthy and balanced diet are all going to help you cut down your risk of heart disease if you have diabetes.

Additionally, smoking is another factor that doubles the chances of heart disease in people with diabetes. So if you are a heavy smoker or even an occasional smoker, it is time to quit if you want to prevent the complications of diabetes.

Hypertension or High Blood Pressure

It is common for many people having type 2 diabetes to also have issues with hypertension or high blood pressure. If high blood pressure is left untreated, then it increases the risk of developing kidney disease, vision problems, and even have a heart attack or stroke.

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If you have diabetes, then you should be monitoring your blood pressure on a regular basis and at the same time follow a low-sodium diet, practice regular exercise, and also indulge in stress-reducing activities. All these steps will help keep your blood pressure in control. If you suffer from regular high blood pressure, then your doctor is likely going to prescribe certain medications to treat this condition.

Vision Problems

Vision problems are a real threat to people who have diabetes. This is because diabetes, especially in the long-term, tends to cause damage to the tiny blood vessels that are present in your eyes. This damage increases the risk of developing a serious eye condition. These may include:

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  • Cataracts, a condition marked by clouding of the lens of the eye
  • Glaucoma, a condition characterized by the accumulation of fluid pressure in the eye
  • Diabetic retinopathy, the blood vessels present in the back of your eye, or the retina, end up becoming damaged
  • Any of these conditions can cause vision loss over a period of time.
  • If you have diabetes, then you must ensure that you get your eyes checked regularly with an ophthalmologist. If you notice even the slightest change in your vision, it should be taken seriously.
  • The early detection of diabetic retinopathy can prevent the onset or at least delay the onset of blindness in nearly 90 percent of diabetic patients.

Stroke

People who have diabetes are at an increased risk of having a stroke. In diabetes patients, most strokes tend to occur when a blood clot develops and blocks one blood vessels leading to the brain. People with diabetes are almost two times more likely to suffer a stroke.

Factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, high levels of cholesterol, being overweight or obese, heart disease, and high blood pressure, are also known to increase the risk of having a stroke.

Foot Ulcers

It is also common for people with diabetes to have some or the other type of foot problems. This happens because, over a period of time, diabetes causes damage to the nerves and problems to start developing in the blood circulation process within the body. This can mean that blood does not flow properly towards your foot, over a period of time cause problems such as foot ulcers.

If you have a foot ulcer, it is likely to become infected if you do not seek immediate medical attention. A serious infection on the foot can even mean that you might have to get the foot or even the leg amputated. This is why foot problems are not to be taken lightly if you have diabetes.

It is possible to prevent the occurrence of foot ulcers by following a stringent routine for foot care. Here are some recommended steps you can take to ensure proper foot care:

  • Wear comfortable and well-fitting shoes with socks (should also fit comfortably).
  • Keep your feet clean and dry at all times and protect them from injury.
  • Check your feet and toes, especially between your toes, for any type of sores, red patches, or blisters.
  • If you notice any foot problems, you should contact your doctor immediately without delay.

Apart from these issues, there are also many other complications which can appear over time in people who have diabetes. These include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Depression
  • Gastroparesis, a condition in which the vagus nerve (the nerve that controls the movement of any food through your digestive tract) gets damaged
  • Tooth decay
  • Dementia

Can Diabetes Related Complications Be Prevented?

It is possible to prevent these long-term complications of type 2 diabetes by taking the proper precautions, such as following a healthy lifestyle, taking your medications in a timely fashion, and being proactive about strictly following your diabetes care as recommended by your doctor.

You should try to keep your blood glucose levels as much within the recommended range as possible. Frequent fluctuations in blood sugar levels are not healthy and will lead to more complications. If you are not sure about what your ideal blood glucose target should be, then you should discuss this with your doctor.

Make changes to your diet to ensure you are eating healthy. Include a lot of fiber and healthy fruits and vegetables in your diet. Avoid high-carbohydrate and sugary diets, along with red meat and processed foods. You should also avoid consuming too many sugary drinks, white bread, white rice, regular pasta, and candy.

Follow a healthy exercise routine and include a regimen of aerobic exercise with strength training to achieve the best results. Also, find ways to lower your stress levels. High levels of stress can also increase y our blood sugar levels.

All these steps will help you not only prevent these long-term complications of type 2 diabetes, but it will also help you achieve a healthy weight.

Schedule regular checkups with your doctor so that you are aware of whether your treatment is working or not. Your doctor will be the best guide in battling diabetes and you should follow their advice as closely as possible.

Conclusion

Just because you have type 2 diabetes, does not mean that you still cannot have a long life that is free of complications. It is very much possible, especially today with so much awareness being created about how to take care of yourself while having diabetes. Diabetes complications, if caught early, can be treated successfully with the proper medications and treatment. So, be aware of all the risk factors and take care of your body.

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Sheetal DeCaria MD

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

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Last Modified On: April 2, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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