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Diabetic Complications
Posted By Horizon NJ Health on June 11, 2013
Tags: Diabetes, Prevention
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The following article was printed in the January 2012 edition of the Positive Community. Horizon NJ Health is proud to support New Jersey publications and community partners.

My friend was diagnosed with diabetes. She has not taken any steps to manage her diabetes, but she worries about the complications that might come with her disease. Could you please let me know how I can work with her to help her live a healthier life?

Answer: Working with your friend as she learns about diabetes is a good way to help her prevent, manage or reduce the risk of problems that can occur. Diabetes can increase a person’s risk for many serious and sometimes life-threatening complications, such as blindness, damage to the kidney, heart or nerves and loss of an arm or a leg. Encourage your friend to talk with her doctor to find out more about her diabetes. As her friend, research the topic together on the internet. She can learn about the complications, find out about managing her disease and hopefully she will realize why it is important for her to make some changes in her lifestyle. A balanced, healthy diet is a good start. Ask her to read about meal plans and healthy recipes in cookbooks for diabetics.

There are many complications associated with diabetes including those that can involve eyes, kidneys, heart or the loss of limbs. Diabetes is the leading cause of:

  • New cases of adult blindness
  • Kidney failure
  • Lower-limb amputations

It is important that people with diabetes get plenty of exercise, physical activity and regular HbA1C (Hemoglobin A1C) to monitor diabetes control.

People with diabetes have a higher risk for blindness than those without diabetes. However, many of these problems are minor and can be treated. People with diabetes need to be extra vigilant about getting their regular eye examinations and check ups. If vision or eye problems occur, prompt attention and treatment can help. Tell your friend to schedule her next eye appointment now and every twelve months with an eye doctor.

Those who have diabetes are 40 percent more likely to develop glaucoma than people without the disease. With glaucoma, pressure in the eye builds up and eventually can pinch the blood vessels to the eye and optic nerve. Over time, this damage can lead to vision loss or blindness. As one ages, the risk of glaucoma increases, yet treatments are available. Surgery is an option and some drugs will reduce the pressure in the eye.

Kidneys are very good filters for the body and continually sift through the blood to make sure the body keeps the good and eliminates any toxins and waste. Such a system can be prone to damage by diabetes. Diabetes causes injury to the body’s blood vessels. The high levels of blood sugar can make the millions of blood vessels in the kidneys work overtime. Kidneys can become damaged and unable to remove waste products that build up in the blood. Although diabetes is not the only reason kidneys fail, the American Diabetes Association notes that it is the number one cause of kidney failure.

Diabetes is a leading cause of foot and leg amputations. The risks are greater if you:

  • Are an African American
  • Are age 65 or older
  • Had a previous amputation
  • Smoke
  • Have poor circulation in your feet and legs
  • Have neuropathy or loss of feeling feet or legs
  • Have sores leg or foot sores that are slow to heal


  • Schedule a foot exam every year.
  • Inspect feet daily for discoloration, sores, redness or cracks.
  • After bathing, dry feet and in between toes.
  • Use lotion to keep skin’s moisture.
  • Make regular visits to a physician and a foot doctor (podiatrist).
  • Get a Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) blood test and frequent finger sticks to monitor or check blood sugar level. Be prepared. Make a plan and share it.