This post was written by Melody Kalla, PharmD Candidate, and Monica Somerfelt, PharmD, BCACP, Parkview Health.
Managing your diabetes not only helps you keep your blood sugar under control, it can also help you keep other complications at bay. In this post, we’ll cover the correlation between those with undiagnosed and uncontrolled diabetes and the increased risk of developing microvascular complications, specifically.
Microvascular complications of diabetes are long-term issues that can affect your small blood vessels. Such complications can include retinopathy, nephropathy, peripheral neuropathy and autonomic neuropathy. Let’s unpack what these potential complications mean and how you can keep a watchful eye out for them.
Microvascular complications of diabetes
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by high blood sugar levels that may damage the retina in the back of the eye, and is the leading cause of blindness in adults in the U.S. At the time of your diabetes diagnosis, you should get an eye screening for retinopathy, and yearly eye screenings thereafter.
Diabetes can have damaging effects on your kidney function. High blood sugars make your kidneys filter too much blood, which makes them work extra hard. Nephropathy is the term for deterioration of kidney function, and is the leading cause of end-stage renal disease in the U.S. Regular checkups with your doctor can help screen for kidney disease.
Diabetic neuropathy - Peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy affects the nerves in the hands and/or feet and can cause numbness, pain, tingling, swelling or muscle weakness. This may increase infection risk and is the leading contributor to lower extremity (foot) amputations. Diabetic patients have increased risk of injury to their feet and/or legs due to neuropathy that goes unnoticed and can result in infection. This can lead to a possible amputation if left untreated. Start regular foot screenings with your primary care physician at the time of your diabetes diagnosis and repeat them yearly.
Foot care is extremely important, especially in the summer. Wear gym shoes whenever possible and if wearing flip flops or sandals, make sure to check your feet regularly—at least once a day. Keep a mirror next to your bedside floor to make it easier to check your feet daily (look at the bottoms of your feet and in between toes). Specialized therapeutic footwear is also recommended for people with diabetes who are at high risk for ulceration, including those with loss of protective sensation, foot deformities, ulcers, callous formation, poor peripheral circulation or a history of amputation.
Diabetic neuropathy - Autonomic neuropathy
Autonomic neuropathy affects the nerves of internal organs including the bladder, intestinal tract, genitals and other organs. Screenings for autonomic neuropathy should occur yearly.
How can someone reduce their risk of diabetes complications?
The best way to reduce your risk of diabetes complications is to have regular check-ups with your primary care physician.
If you’re concerned about your health, please consult your healthcare provider. They can make recommendations based on your situation and help you determine the best place to begin. For additional questions about prediabetes or diabetes, please call Parkview Diabetes Care Services at 260-373-4280 to speak with a diabetes educator, registered dietitian or lifestyle change specialist.