Ever since I was diagnosed at age six, I’ve been told (in a nutshell) that if I don’t take care of my diabetes, I will go blind, have to get my legs amputated, and will have kidney failure.
To a six year old, this is not only disgusting, but extremely scary (I would not advise letting your child’s doctor say this to them at such an early age!). Over ten years later, I still haven’t questioned these scary outcomes of the disease, so I decided to do so for my blog today. In fact, for the month of April, I am going to try and face as many diabetes misconceptions as I can.
To start off with the initial question of diabetes and aging: yes, there are severe consequences for repeated high blood sugars. Imagine my surprise when the doctor wasn’t telling me these things to scare me; he was telling me the truth! According to a book titled Diabetes Demystified (Masharani, 2008), there are two types of long-term complications for type one diabetics. Microvascular complications are those that affect the nerves, eyes and kidneys. Marcovascular complications are those that can lead to leg amputations, hypertension, and strokes, to name a few of the complications.
To avoid these problems, close glucose control is the best option. In fact, with close control, the aforementioned problems may not even occur (unless for reasons unrelated to diabetes).
Although scientists do not have a firm idea as to why complications arise due to high blood sugar levels, they think that it is because high blood sugar causes a depletion of antioxidant cells, causing oxidizing cells to ruin the proteins in the blood (Masharani, 2008).
You may have noticed that many of the complications listed have to do with the nervous system. I thought this was strange, considering that diabetes is an endocrine/hormonal disease. Unfortunately, doctors have not been able to pinpoint why complications from diabetes seem to affect the nervous system, but they know that autoimmune reactions and proteins add into the mix of reasons.