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Diabetes: Four Hidden Complications

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), more than 14 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes and another 6 million have the disease and have not been diagnosed. High blood sugar causes many underlying health issues if not managed.

There are two types of diabetes: Type I and Type II. Persons with Type I diabetes must receive insulin delivered by a syringe or a pump. According to the ADA, 9 out of 10 persons diagnosed with diabetes Type II are overweight. Persons with type II diabetes can manage the condition with diet, exercise and oral medications.

Persons with pre-diabetes are those at risk of developing diabetes. They have blood sugar levels between 100-125 mg/dl after fasting. This level is high but not high enough to be classified as high blood sugar. Persons with pre-diabetes who lose weight and increase their physical activity can prevent diabetes.

Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of new blindness and visual difficulties, including glaucoma and cataracts, in individuals age 20 to 74 (Llewellyn, A. Poor Diabetes Management. Case in Point, April/May 2007, p 36.) Annual dilated eye exams are important for all individuals but especially those with diabetes type one or two.

Heart disease and stroke are extremely common among individuals with diabetes and account for 65% of deaths. This includes problems with high blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. Diabetes is also the most common cause of kidney failure.

Dental disease (gum disease)is very common with persons with diabetes. Proper care, brushing and flossing, will prevent gum disease and future needs for dental surgery.

Neuropathy, or loss of feeling in the body, especially feet or limbs in very common. This results in the increased importance of foot care because the loss of sensation can lead to foot ulcers that go untreated and eventually require amputation. Self care becomes extremely important as a preventative model for complications related to diabetes.

Because diabetic self care can be an overwhelming task, it is extremely important for mature adults to develop routines of care in order to maintain health status. Daily blood sugar and blood pressure monitoring are important as well as exercise, eating a balanced diet and taking medications on schedule. Regular doctor appointments and ongoing contact with a nurse or diabetic case manager can help individuals manage diabetes positively.

Pamela D. Wilson is a care navigator assisting mature individuals and family members make decisions about health care and associated choices. Visit Pamela D. Wilson, Inc. at

Written by Pamela Dombrowski-Wilson

Pamela D. Wilson, provides education, care coordination and long term care planning. She is a qualified speaker, author and educator. Pamela hosts a weekly talk show called Parenting Your Parents, on 630 KHOW in Denver

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