Over 7 percent of the US population has diabetes. Diabetes is rapidly becoming an epidemic due to a burgeoning population with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. In 2005 there were about 31 million people ages 20 or older with diabetes. In this same year there were 1.5 million new cases of diabetes in the age group of 20 years and older.
Diabetes is still the number cause of end stage kidney disease. In 2002 over 150,000 people were living on dialysis or with a kidney transplant due to diabetes. In this same year nearly 45,000 persons began treatment for end stage kidney disease due to dialysis. Treatment for end stage kidney disease can reach a staggering figure of over $ 100,000 per patient.
Diabetes can damage the back of the eye (the retina) and its blood vessels. You can have rapid growth of blood vessels which may burst and lead to bleeding. Cataracts are more common in diabetics. Diabetes causes most of the new cases of blindness in persons ages 20-74.
Diabetes can cause a gut disease called gastroparesis where food moves slowly in the gut and can result in bloating, loss of appetite, belly pain, nausea, or even vomiting. If food stays in the gut too long, it can harden into little clumps called bezoars. Bezoars may lead to more belly pain, bloating, infections or even blockages involving the gut. The high sugars of diabetes can cause nerve damage in the gut to cause gastroparesis.
Other Nerve Damage
Besides nerve damage involving the gut, diabetes can cause nerve damage to the hands and feet which may decrease your ability to sense pain, temperature, touch, and vibration. Carpal tunnel disease may also develop.
Amputation (loss of a limb)
Over 50 percent of all amputations not due to trauma are caused by diabetes. This is due to vascular (blood vessel) disease especially due to cholesterol build up in the blood vessels. The amputations are also due to the loss of sensation. Individuals may wound a limb and not know it due to this loss of sensation. Wounds worsen and became infected (may include the bone) to the point where an amputation is necessary. Infection of the bone is called osteomyelitis.
How Can Diabetics Avoid Deadly Complications?
Keep blood pressure less than 130/80. Up to 75 percent of diabetics may have high blood pressure. Make sure your sugar control number (hemoglobin A1C or Glycohemoglobin) is less than 7 percent, preferably as near to 6.5 percent as possible. See your eye doctor at least once per year. Check the top and the bottom of your feet every week. Loss of hair on the legs, cool or bluish legs with shiny skin may signal blood vessel disease. Your doctor needs to evaluate your feet as well. If blood vessel disease is suspected, ask for a blood flow study of your legs. Smoking is even deadlier for a diabetic. It's like pouring gasoline on fire. Avoid alcohol which may worsen blood pressure and blood sugars. To evaluate your kidney function, ask your health care provider to check your blood creatinine level, a special kidney function test called a GFR, and a urine protein screen.