When you hear the word, “diabetes”, the first thing that comes to mind is “too much sugar in the blood.” This is largely true, but diabetes is beyond just having excess sugar in the blood. Diabetes affects the body in many ways, and the effects of diabetes on the body systems are also quite numerous.
In recent times, there have been a huge bump up in the incidence of diabetes. This is due to the kind of lifestyle that the modern, civil man has come to evolve. A life of more calories and less activity.
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Unwholesome diet and poor lifestyle choices is the order of the day. All these result in problems, like diabetes for example. If only we will mind the effects of diabetes on the body.
Diabetes affects the body adversely in many ways, and this is what this article explores.
Blood Sugar and Insulin: The Connection
When we eat, the level of blood sugar, or glucose, increases. Insulin is an hormone that helps us utilize this glucose for energy. It is produced in the pancreas.
Sometimes however, when the glucose levels are too high, insulin helps to convert the excess glucose into glycogen for storage.
We can then use this glycogen later, when it is converted back into glucose by another hormone called glucagon. Glucagon is also produced in the pancreas.
High Blood Sugar and Diabetes Symptoms
Sugar is needed for the body to create energy, and it is essential for survival. However, when it is taken in excess, it leads to the accumulation of toxins (ama), which damage the body.
The balance of glucose has to be strictly maintained by the liver and the pancreas. But a problem arises when, for some reason, they can’t keep the balance.
For example, when excess glucose cannot be converted into glycogen, this causes high blood sugar levels chronically.
This leads to symptoms like weight gain, immune problems, risk of heart diseases and stroke, sluggishness, etc.
A few signs that can show high blood sugar levels include night sweats, excess thirst, general fatigue, and cravings for sweets.
Type 1 diabetes
This is the type of diabetes that occurs when enough insulin is not produced. It is due to an auto-immune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the pancreas.
Pancreas is thus prevented from producing insulin adequately or stopped from producing at all. Therefore, the glucose is left to accumulate in the blood.
Eventually, it becomes more than is needed, and symptoms begin to arise as a result of this. 10% of cases are type 1 diabetes. People with this type usually are dependent on taking insulin dosages either orally or by injection throughout life.
Type 2 diabetes
This type of diabetes results when the body is unable to utilize the insulin provided. We say that the body has insulin resistance. There is insulin, but the cells of the pancreas are desensitized to it.
So eventually, it can result in hyperinsulinemia or high insulin levels in your blood plasma and excessive blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is in 90% of cases.
Losing weight (by diet and physical activity), and other lifestyle changes can usually resolve the situation.
Other types of Diabetes or Stages of Diabetes include:
- Prediabetes: here, the symptoms and the levels of blood sugar is not yet high enough to qualify as diabetes. However, the sugar levels are high enough to raise concern, and if not managed appropriately, it can graduate into full-blown diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes: this happens in pregnant women, etc.
- Diabetes Insipidus, etc.
Effects of diabetes on the body systems
Diabetes affects the body, organs and its systems in various ways. The condition leads to symptoms that can further aggravate other symptoms in various body organs and systems. Some of them are as follows:
1. Effect of diabetes on the cardiovascular system – Heart Health
The cardiovascular system is the set of organs in the body that deal with blood supply and blood circulation. It mainly consists of the heart and the blood vessels. The effects of diabetes on the heart and the circulation are quite deadly.
In fact, cardiovascular complications are the major cause of death among diabetics. To make things worse, people who have diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop heart problem and stroke.
Furthermore, the blood vessels at the extremities, especially the small ones, get damaged. This leads to several more complications as they cannot adequately supply blood to all organs of the body.
The toes of the feet are particularly in danger here. This is what might sometimes makes amputation of toes or the whole feet necessary, because the tissues are damaged due to inadequate blood supply.
Avascular necrosis (death due to lack of blood supply) of the tissues would have set in.
2. Skin problems due to Diabetes
Remember that, in diabetes, the small blood vessels and the nerves gets damaged. As a result of these, the skin gets dry. So, dry skin is one major effect of diabetes on the skin. The dryness of skin is mostly seen on the feet.
This problem is compounded further. The dry skin cracks, and microbes are able to get in through the cracks. This leads to skin infections, e.g., fungal infections in the feet(Athlete’s foot).
3. Effects of Diabetes on the Nervous system
Diabetes causes problems with the nervous system, that is, neuropathies. Neuropathies are present in 60-70% of diabetic cases. The type of neuropathy could be:
Peripheral diabetic Neuropathy
It affects the extremities mostly, those under the control of the peripheral nervous system. It causes burning, loss of feeling in hands, toes, etc. This is why diabetics need to be careful where they place body parts. They might not feel it well enough or feel it late if peradventure they happen to be sitting with their feet too close to the bonfire.
This affects the autonomic nervous system. The affected organs are mainly internal body organs. These include: sexual organs, digestive organs (causes gastroparesis), bladder (not knowing when bladder is full), inability to sense hypoglycemia. Other symptoms are dizziness and fainting.
When the muscles don’t receive enough nervous stimulation, they remain inactive. Inactivity of the muscles cause them to begin to atrophy, that is, they begin to dwindle. Symptoms that can be felt include severe pain in hip, thigh, and weakness in thigh muscles.
4. Effects of Diabetes on the Kidneys
On a general note, having kidney problems puts one at a higher risk of developing heart problems also. With kidney problems, early detection and treatment is key, as they may be incurable. If a problem with the kidney is left untended however, it can lead to total kidney failure and ultimately, death.
The kidney is an important organ in filtering the blood. It has lots of different filters that filter the blood passing through the kidney. These filters help to remove the valuable items and put them back into the circulation, whereas waste materials are added to the urine poo.
However, when there is high blood sugar level, it causes damage to the filters. Consequently, the kidney can no longer perform its filtering function effectively. This could mean that valuable materials that should be preserved are allowed to pass into the urine and passed out.
On the other hand, waste materials that should be passed out could also be retained, leading to toxin build up in the body.
5. How Diabetes affects the eyesight
Yes, there are also effects of diabetes on the eyesight. Studies have shown that diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in people between ages 20 and 74.
Complications of sight due to diabetes can be in different forms:
- Diabetic retinopathy: This is the most common. The retina is light sensitive part of the eye. When you look at an object, light from the object falls on the retina, and the light signals are taken to the brain for interpretation. But, recall that the blood vessels do get damaged due to diabetes. As a result, the small blood vessels in the eyes begin to leak, allowing blood into the retina. Thus, the retina is no longer able to effectively carry out its function, and eyesight dwindles.
- Macular edema: Macula is the part of the retina that allows clear vision. Due to blood vessel damages, fluid builds up in the eye, and the macula gets damaged, causing the vision to become blurry.
- Glaucoma: In this condition, the pressure in the eyes increase way beyond normal. This damages the vision.
- Cataracts: Cataracts causes foggy and cloudy vision.
6. Effects of diabetes on the teeth and gum
Going further on how diabetes affects the body. Diabetics have a higher risk of developing tooth and gum infections if the diabetes isn’t managed well. The problem is also because the blood vessels supplying them get damaged, so they don’t get enough nutrition and circulation to keep healthy. Sadly, damage to teeth and gums can further aggravate blood sugar levels, and a correlation has also been found with heart disease.
7. How diabetes affects the mental health
Diabetes is a chronic disease. It is something that the patient has to live with. This knowledge and the management can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Aside this, the damage to blood vessels also reaches the brain. Consequently, the brain has a shortage of blood supply. Furthermore, type 2 diabetes has been linked with Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia due to changes in brain resulting from the shortage of blood supply. Diabetes affects the body almost completely, and the brain is not left out.
8. The effects of diabetes on the immune system
Diabetes affects the immune system too. In diabetes, the level of sugar in the blood can get high, and this does not help the immune functions of the body. high blood sugar levels slow down the white blood cells(the cells of the immune system that help with the detection and fighting of diseases). Consequently, they can’t perform their functions very well.
This open up thee body to risk of infections. That is, the body is more susceptible to infections, since the defense system is down.
9. Effects of diabetes on sexual health
Diabetes can cause sexual dysfunction in men and in women. In women however, it is unclear as yet if the sexual dysfunction is due to diabetes or just a normal sign of menopause.
10. How diabetes affects the thyroid glands
The endocrine system is not left out. Initially, diabetes results from hormonal imbalances. So, they thyroid gland can either become hyperactive or under-active.