by Kristy Como Armand
Blindness. Amputation. Heart Attack. Stroke. Kidney Failure. These may sound like frightening worst-case diabetic scenarios, but they are the all-too-real complications that can occur when blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol are out of control.
“Most people with diabetes don’t want to think serious problems like these will happen to them,” says Tyler Zachary, MD, endocrinologist with the Endocrinology Center of SWLA. “Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a serious wake-up call like a foot infection or bleeding vessels in the eye before a patient realizes the very real risk of complications they face if they don’t manage their disease.”
Diabetes results when the body either doesn’t produce insulin, produces too little of it, or doesn’t respond to the insulin it does produce. Without insulin the body can’t metabolize sugar. Over time, high blood sugar slowly injures the blood vessels, nerves, and organs in your body.
More than 34 million Americans—approximately 1 in 10 – have diabetes, according to data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Those with diabetes have medical expenditures approximately 2.3 times higher than they would without the disease, according to the ADA (American Diabetes Association). The annual cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is more than $327 billion.
Dr. Zachary explains that the higher your blood sugar is, and the longer it stays high, the worse the damage becomes. “Damage is slow and occurs over a period of years, but it probably begins when blood sugar is at mildly elevated levels. This means the damage has likely begun before a person is even aware they have the disease. Many people have the disease for five to seven years before being diagnosed.”
Dr. Tyler Zachary adds that damage to the body from diabetes does not occur in the same way for everyone, and that genetics probably influence which complications you are more susceptible to. “Although the potential complications of diabetes are serious, they are not inevitable.” Dr. Zachary offers the following suggestions for reducing your risk:
“Diabetes care is within your control,” stresses Dr. Zachary. “If you’re willing to do your part, diabetes won’t stand in the way of an active, healthy life."
For more information about diabetes management, call Dr. Zachary at the Endocrinology Center, (337) 310-3670.