People living with diabetes mellitus are prone to many chronic complications which can involve virtually all parts of the body from head to toe. Most of the complications are consequences of persistent high blood sugar over a long time. The complications may be the reason for seeing a doctor leading to the diagnosis of the condition or may manifest several years after one is found to have diabetes mellitus. In no particular order, the top 10 chronic complications of diabetes mellitus include:
1. Stroke – people living with diabetes are more likely to suffer stroke than the normal population. This is because diabetes mellitus is often associated with other factors that increase risks of one suffering stroke such as hypertension, obesity, lipids abnormality, increasing age and their blood being more viscous. It’s also important to note that increased blood sugar in someone who has suffered a stroke is associated with worse outcome/prognosis.
2. Heart attack and heart failure : Compared with the normal persons, people living with diabetes are prone to have more heart attacks which may present classically with the typical symptoms or as silent heart attacks. They also present with heart failure more than the rest population.
3. Blindness and poor vision : Diabetes mellitus is a leading cause of poor vision and blindness in the world. Many a time, diagnosis of diabetes mellitus is made in the office of the Eye doctor because patient presented to the latter because of worsening vision: not knowing that the culprit is diabetes mellitus.
4. Kidney disease and failure : for people living with diabetes, kidney failure has become a major consequence. Diabetes mellitus has become a leading cause of end-stage renal disease leading to renal replacement therapy such as haemodialysis.
5. Impotence in men: Diabetes mellitus is commonly associated with impotence or erectile dysfunction in men suffering from it. This is associated with lots of depression and psychological trauma especially in a young patient.
6. Peripheral vascular disease and or lower limb amputation: Diabetes mellitus causes narrowing of blood supply to the lower limbs and heart; on the lower limbs, this results to poor or nonhealing of foot ulcers. This results to increasing lower limb amputation, of which diabetes mellitus is currently the leading medical cause of lower limb amputations.
7. Chronic infections: People living with diabetes are prone to bacterial and fungal infections more than the rest of the population. Such infections as staphylococcus aureus, vulvovaginal candidiasis, tuberculosis, other chest and dental infections are very common among diabetic patients because of the high blood sugar they have which favours bacterial and fungal growth /multiplications.
8. Peripheral neuropathy : people living with diabetes suffer all manner of disabling abnormal feelings especially on their feet and hands. Some feel numb, burning sensation, tingling sensation, crawling sensations, hot sensations etc in those areas. The worst is that once those parasthesia become obvious, their treatments are difficult and expensive.
9. Infertility, increased miscarriages, increased rates of delivery by Caesarean section : There’s high rates of infertility among men and women living with diabetes than the rest population. For women, living with diabetes is associated with increased miscarriages, having big babies weighing more than 4kg, therefore, necessitating delivering by Caesarean sections. Maternal and baby deaths are also increased among female diabetic patients than non diabetic women.
10. Depression, anxiety, psychological trauma and poverty: Diabetes mellitus is a disabling disease which is fraught with lots of complications. At a certain time in the journey with diabetes, people living with diabetes are depressed, anxious and worried. Some without good social support soon get fed up with the situation and drift into a condition called diabetic burnout. Again, diabetes mellitus is a strong pauperising illness that soon depletes one of his/ her wealth reserve. Multiple painful blood sugar monitoring in the care of persons living with diabetes goes with some psychological trauma.
In conclusion, there are other complications of diabetes mellitus not listed above. The point in showing these complications is to underlie the importance of regular follow up in a good diabetes clinic where efforts are made to prevent those complications or to ameliorate them.