10 Diabetes Long-Term Effects Seniors May Get

Adjusting your lifestyle and diet to deal with diabetes isn’t easy, but it’s definitely worth the effort. Unstable blood sugar levels force your body to run without proper fuel. Running on empty for too long or too often can lead to some serious health issues.

If you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreas is unable to process glucose. If you have type 2, your body can’t process glucose efficiently enough.

Whether you have T1D or T2D, maintaining your blood sugar levels within healthy ranges is crucial for preventing long-term complications. In fact, if it’s not controlled, diabetes can affect nearly every organ in the body.

Here are 10 long-term diabetes complications that seniors may face!

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1. Heart Disease

Cardiovascular complications are one of the most common long-term effects of diabetes. Your doctor may perform several tests to check for heart-related problems and help you prevent any serious health issues.

It’s important to regularly check your blood pressure, whether at home or at the doctor’s office, to measure the blood flow through your arteries. You should also check your levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.

A complete medical record should also include a baseline EKG. It’s noteworthy that cardiovascular diseases run in families, so if you know your parents or grandparents had any heart-related issues, your doctor may recommend what to do to prevent them, especially if you have diabetes.

Prevention plans may include stress management, weight loss, regular exercise, and keeping your cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides at normal levels.

2. Stroke

According to the American Diabetes Association, people with T1D or T2D are 1.5 times more likely to have a stroke (also known as a brain attack). A stroke occurs when your brain stops receiving blood because of a clot in the neck or head.

Symptoms and signs of a brain attack include numbness in the face, leg, or arm; sudden weakness on one side of the body or face; dizziness; or trouble seeing with both eyes. If you start noticing any of these warning signs, seek medical help immediately. You may be referred to a stroke specialist, such as a neurologist.

3. Diabetic Nephropathy (Kidney Disease)

If you have diabetes, urine testing should be done annually to check for diabetic nephropathy, commonly known as kidney disease. A baseline creatinine blood test should also be performed to determine your kidney function.

You may need to do those tests more often if you’re likely to develop kidney disease because of heart disease, a family history of kidney failure, or high blood pressure.

If you have foamy urine, have to pee all the time, or feel like your ankles and feet are puffing up with extra water, talk to your doctor. A simple urine test will let them know what to do next. They should also check your blood pressure, as keeping it in the safe zone is essential for slowing kidney disease.

4. Diabetic Neuropathy (Nerve Damage)

Diabetes can cause nerve damage in the long run, producing symptoms that include burning, numbness, or pain in your feet, legs, or hands. If your skin becomes numb, you may stop noticing small wounds that could turn into bigger health threats.

It’s important to check your hands and feet daily for calluses, cracks, skin breakdown, or redness. If you experience any of these symptoms before your next scheduled visit, call your doctor right away.

You should have your feet examined at least once a year to check for these long-term diabetes complications. Your healthcare provider will prick your feet with a small needle or tap on them using a tool similar to a nylon hairbrush bristle. If you don’t feel anything during the checkup, you may have nerve damage.

5. Diabetic Retinopathy (Eye Damage)

To protect their sight, all people with diabetes should visit an eye doctor at least once a year. As part of the eye examination, the doctor will dilate your pupils using some special drops so that they can better see the retina (the back of the eye). This helps determine whether diabetes is causing any damage to the eyes. Your doctor should also test your side vision, distance vision, and eye pressure.

The test is painless. But since your vision will remain blurry and you’ll be sensitive to light for a few hours, it’s a great idea to bring sunglasses and have someone drive you home.

For people with type 2 diabetes, these annual exams should begin immediately after the patient is diagnosed. People with type 1 diabetes should have their first annual exam within three to five years after the age of 10.

6. Gastroparesis

Diabetes increases your risk of gastroparesis. With gastroparesis, also called gastric stasis, the nerves in the stomach stop working properly. This leads to delayed gastric emptying and makes it hard to manage blood glucose levels.

Sometimes, adapting your diet to this condition can help. These are some treatments and medications for gastroparesis. In order to be diagnosed, you may need to do some tests such as a gastric emptying breath test, an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, gastric emptying scintigraphy, the smartPill, and an upper GI series.

Ask your doctor for information on early warning signs so you can choose a treatment that’s effective for you.

7. Erectile Dysfunction

Diabetes tends to increase the risk of developing impotence, or erectile dysfunction. In fact, men with diabetes are three times more likely to have trouble keeping or getting an erection.

According to a study conducted by the Boston University Medical Center, about 50% of men who have type 2 diabetes will develop erectile dysfunction within five to 10 years of their diagnosis.

In this case, adopting a healthier lifestyle, such as reducing stress, quitting smoking, and exercising regularly, may resolve the issue. It’s important to talk to your doctor about this condition, as they can recommend additional remedies, including a vacuum constriction device (VCD), medications, and other erectile dysfunction aids.

8. Skin Problems

Studies show that one in three people with diabetes will experience a skin condition related to their disease at some point in their lives. It’s also known that high levels of glucose in the blood create an excellent breeding ground for bacteria. This eventually impairs your body’s natural ability to heal itself.

For those who don’t have diabetes, a skin rash may be the first warning sign of high blood sugar or prediabetes. Your doctor can advise you on what to do next.

Luckily, most skin issues can be prevented and successfully treated if discovered early. If you have type 2 diabetes and your skin isn’t cared for properly, a minor skin condition can quickly turn into a severe problem with potentially serious consequences.

9. Dental Problems

People with diabetes are more likely to develop serious oral and dental health issues. The more uncontrolled the blood sugar, the higher the risk of dental and oral health problems.

This happens because uncontrolled diabetes impairs the function and quantity of white blood cells, which are the body’s major line of defense against infections that can develop in the mouth. In the long run, untreated plaque can result in tooth decay, periodontitis, gum disease (gingivitis), and even tooth loss.

So make sure you watch out for any signs of gum problems, including bleeding, swollen, or tender gums. Whether you have diabetes or not, it’s important to brush, floss, and rinse with mouthwash daily. Don’t forget to see your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings to prevent serious dental issues.

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10. Infection

Type 2 diabetes is known to impair your body’s natural ability to fight infections. That’s because high blood sugar levels can impair a person’s immune system’s defenses.

The chance of developing infections is higher for those with uncontrolled diabetes. In addition, some long-term effects of diabetes, such as reduced blood flow to the extremities and nerve damage, increase the body’s vulnerability to infection.

When you have diabetes, you’re especially prone to yeast infections, urinary tract infections, foot infections, and surgical site infections. Early treatment of infections can help you prevent more serious complications.

The Diabetes Code Cookbook: Delicious, Healthy, Low-Carb Recipes to Manage Your Insulin and Prevent and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes is one of the best cook books for those who want to learn how to cook healthy.

You may also want to read 7 Important Things Your Cardiologist Won’t Tell You

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