Diabetes & Seniors

Left untreated or uncontrolled, diabetes can cause severe complications including heart disease, stroke, blindness, cataracts, kidney disease and nerve damage that could lead to amputation.

  • Diabetic neuropathy - This is the name given to the nerve damage caused by diabetes. NIDDK says symptoms of neuropathy include numbness and sometimes pain in the hands, feet or legs.
  • Heart disease and stroke - The American Heart Association (AHA) says diabetes is also a major risk factor for stroke, coronary heart disease and heart attack.
  • Diabetic retinopathy - Diabetic retinopathy is a potentially blinding complication of diabetes in which the eye's retina is damaged. ADA says it is more likely to develop the longer someone has had poorly controlled diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina.
  • Kidney disease - Poorly controlled diabetes is the number one cause of chronic kidney failure, which is also called end stage renal disease (ESRD). Diabetes results in 35 percent of new ESRD cases each year.
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis - In this potential complication, impurities can build up rapidly in the body and cause a medical emergency. The impurities are the by-products of fat metabolism, called ketones. Ketones build up in the blood because not enough insulin is available to burn glucose for energy, and fat is burned rapidly instead. The high level of ketones that results causes acid in the blood, which is dangerous, and the high level of glucose leads to severe dehydration.
  • Diabetic gastroparesis - Poorly controlled diabetes can also affect the nerves that are part of the stomach. It can result in delayed emptying, abdominal distension and bloating and chronic pain.

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