Thursday, 4 October 2012

Complications - Remember them.....It's important!

It's really funny how things happen sometimes.  I have another appointment with my endocrinologist coming up in a little less than a week, and I know that I am going to get an earful at the appointment.  Despite having my insulin pump, I have not been following my own advice.  I have said before that simply having the pump is not going to control my diabetes, I have to take an active involvement in making sure it is doing a good job for me.  To make a long story short, I have not been doing a good job.  I just had my HA1C test done yesterday, and I am dreading the results.  It is as if the "world" knows this and has been trying to send me a message, in a sense.  In the past two or three weeks I have met up with two new people who, upon finding out that I am a Type 1 diabetic, have shared with me some their experiences with people close to them who have had serious complications from their ill-managed blood glucose levels.  This might be one of things I needed to knock some sense back into me!  

Many of us who have been diabetic for many years (I am "celebrating" my 21st diabetic birthday this week) need a jolt back to reality every once in a while to remember what we are facing.  Sure, there are the short term problems like dizziness, slurred speech, confusion, and irritability, but what I want to rehighlight for you are the long term complications, those that aren't so easily (if at all) fixed.

HEART (AND OTHER BLOOD VESSELS):  Chest pain, heart attack, and stroke are all major and serious  problems that can occur.  In fact, by some estimates in North America, 65% of diabetics (Type 1 and 2) are killed by some sort of heart or blood vessel disease.  In fact, as a diabetic your chances of death from heart disease and stroke are up to 4 times higher than other people in the population

EYES: Diabetic retinopathy is a damage of the blood vessels in the eyes.  Almost 30% of diabetics age 40 and over have some sort of diabetic retinopathy.  This is the leading cause of blindness in North America, for people aged 20 - 74.

KIDNEYS: Your body's filtering system can be damaged with bad BG control for an extended time.  The results of which are kidney failure or end-stage kidney disease.  Diabetics account for almost 50% of all new cases of kidney failure.  

FEET: Nerve damage to your feet or poor blood circulation can lead to a loss of feeling in your lower extremities  leaving you unable to feel when problems persist, leading to a requirement to amputate your foot.  or leg!  More than 60% of non-traumatic lower limb amputations are taken from diabetics.

TEETH: Higher blood sugars result in more sugar in your saliva and lead to gum disease and plague build-up.    Roughly a third of diabetics have severe periodontal disease resulting in loss of attachment of your teeth to your gums!   

This post isn't ALL doom & gloom, though.  There are some diabetics who are able to escape without serious complications.  Studies seem to talk about different groups and percentages, but approximately 10-15% of diabetics can get through life without any serious complications of the disease.  Is there something special that they have in their genes that help them?  Is it their diet?  Is it care they received early in their diagnosis?  Is it care they have received throughout their diabetic life?  Studies are still being done, but the one thing that is agreed to is that their HA1C tests are consistently within acceptable limits (below 7.5 for sure, and the numbers get stronger the lower that number is).  

Which statistic do you want to be a part of?

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