Diabetic complications came as a total surprise to me. Type 2 diabetes was such a silent, sneaky condition that I had no idea it was there until I experienced one of those complications, a small stroke.
Thankfully, I was left with no problems afterward, although I think my memory is not as good now. But my children tell me it was never that great to begin with.
The earliest complication most type 2 diabetics experience is peripheral neuropathy. It is a result of too much sugar in the blood.
Since type 2 diabetes is high blood sugar, the extra glucose carried in the blood is thickening and weakening blood vessel walls.
The damage shows up first in the tiniest blood vessels, the capillaries in the tips of your fingers and toes, the back of your eyes, around your heart and in the lining of your stomach and intestines.
Those are the places diabetic neuropathy begins. Your fingers and toes become less sensitive, you might develop early cataracts like I did, and gastroparesis may show up.
Diabetic complications like retinopathy, neuropathy, gastroparesis, paresthesias, and macular degeneration might become familiar to you as you age with type 2 diabetes.
The scariest complications to me have been in my eyes. Blindness has always been a terrible result of diabetes.
That's why finding a good ophthalmologist is so important to a long-term diabetic. Mine has already taken me through cataract surgery.
He has also done laser surgery for the bleeding capillaries we diabetics get in the back of our eyes.
Those used to be a major cause of the blindness that diabetics experienced, but yearly visits and eye exams have saved my eyes twice now.
Your opthalmologist will dilate your eyes at every visit and search for capillary damage, cataract formation and other microscopic changes. Don't miss an appointment.
Keep them faithfully. Then diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration will be caught in the infant stages, and they will be taken care of.
Because the health of your eyes is tied directly to tight control of your blood sugar, use your glucose monitor often. It's easy to fool yourself that you are doing better than you are if you don't keep track.
Paresthesias are loss of nerve sensation, and out of all the diabetic complications, this one leads to amputation. That's the reason the doctor pokes your toes with a fine nylon wire and asks if you can feel it.
Loss of feeling in your feet isn't the only thing a doctor looks for.
He also checks the warmth and pulses in your feet because blood flow is necessary for healing. Paresthesias mean the blood flow is slowing down, getting blocked.
Diabetics must not neglect their feet. A good podiatrist will make sure you don't trim your own toenails or ignore a sore spot.
Diabetic ulcers and sores have to be taken seriously, because it was not long ago that amputations were in every aging type 2 diabetic's future.
Tingling in fingertips and toes that does not go away is more than just annoying. Numbness in hands leads to dropping things.
Diabetics also have early problems with that bugbear for repetitive handwork called carpal tunnel syndrome. The diabetic neuropathy page gives ideas for things you can do about that.
This is one of the diabetic complications I never heard of until it happened to me. Gastroparesis means your digestive system doesn't work like it used to.
Food can sit around until it causes major upset, even vomiting. Or it can lead to constipation. It is one of the reasons to be sure you get enough fiber.
Gastroparesis is no joke. Digestive problems can make blood sugar go haywire, something you definitely want to avoid if you can.
You may need medications for this complication, and your
doctor can tell you which one will help you the most. Go to the page on gastroparesis for more useful information.
Diabetic nerve pain goes along with paresthesias. It can crop up anywhere. Toe and finger pains seem to plague me the most, although random leg cramps can bring me up standing out of a deep sleep.
The pains come and go like phantoms with no rhyme or reason. It's all part of focal neuropathy.
There is also autonomic neuropathy that can only be detected by a diabetic doctor who is looking for that diabetic complication.
The effects show up in your internal organs, and you won't be aware of them until they cause things like bladder infections, dizziness, difficulty with balance, and chest or abdominal pain.
The worst internal problem may be nephropathy because it leads to end stage renal disease, kidney dialysis and death if you can't get a kidney transplant.
As diabetic complications go, this is one you want to watch out for. The page on nephropathy shows you how.
The best treatment for all the diabetic complications is good blood sugar levels. Medications work if you can live with the side effects, but a hemoglobin A1C under 7 does side track complications.
Be sure to try antioxidants. There are some excellent ones you can try, some that target the eyes and others for nerves and digestion. What's the best way to get them? A diet full of superfoods will do it.
Diabetic complications like early cataracts and carpal tunnel syndrome and peripheral neuropathy do not have to happen to you if you get early and tight control of your blood sugar.
Testing every day will help you keep your eye on the goal.
Please try to become active and lose some weight. That has been working for me, so I know it will for you too. Visit my weight loss page to see how this 63-year-old type 2 diabetic is doing.
Avoid diabetic complications so that your journey with type 2 diabetes will be less painful.
Go back to the top.Return to the home page for a diabetic life from diabetic complications.
Retinopathy is one of the causes of type 2 diabetic blindness. Here's how to keep that from happening.
Seven ways to avoid the complications of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetic nephropathy, the complication that has put so many diabetics on dialysis. There's a test that will catch it early and save your kidneys.
Here's a kidney diet full of superfoods for healthy type 2 diabetic kidneys.
Peripheral neuropathy, the diabetic complication of numbness, tingling and pain that leads to foot ulcers.
Focal neuropathy is the lightning pain that strikes without warning and fades away slowly.
Autonomic neuropathy mimics heart attack, and it has other disturbing effects for a type 2 diabetic.
Proximal neuropathy, the muscle wasting in long-term type 2 diabetes that comes from years of high blood sugar.
Paresthesias are the loss of nerve sensation in hands and feet that can end in amputation for a type 2 diabetic.
Diabetic nerve pain can begin with sensitive feet, and few diabetics are able to escape it.