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Understanding the Complications of Type 1 Diabetes

Complications of Type 1 Can Be Prevented

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Updated June 17, 2011

The complications that could arise with type 1 diabetes are a reality of this condition. If you have type 1 diabetes you already know that there is much to do on a daily basis to manage it well. In fact, it’s relatively easy to focus on the tasks at hand and lose sight of the potential consequences associated with diabetes. There are both potential short-term and long-term complications that can arise with diabetes.

Short-term complications

  • Hypoglycemia
    Hypoglycemia is when your blood glucose levels drop to a dangerously low level, usually as a result of not eating enough and possibly combined with taking too much insulin or exercising too much. If this condition is not treated quickly it can result in a medical emergency.
  • Hyperglycemia
    Hyperglycemia is when your blood glucose levels are too high. If prolonged, it could lead to a condition called ketoacidosis (DKA, which occurs when the body does not have enough insulin and uses stored body fat as an alternative source of fuel. This toxic state can lead to coma and possibly death.

Long-term complications

Although there is still a lot we don’t fully understand about diabetes, one thing is certain: high blood sugar over the long-term puts you at greater risk for a number of health problems. These include long-term complications that could affect your:
  • Eyes
    Diabetes puts you at greater risk for retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts.

  • Kidneys
    High blood pressure, which is common in people with diabetes, increases the risk of kidney disease.

  • Heart and Blood Vessels
    High cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose levels damage the heart and blood vessels leaving you susceptible to heart disease and stroke.

  • Feet
    Nerve damage can cause a loss of sensation in your feet making you less aware of pain or discomfort. This may lead to injury such as a blister or more severe wound that is difficult to heal.

  • Teeth and Gums
    High levels of glucose in your blood create a greater concentration of sugar in your saliva. This contributes to plaque build-up and gum disease.

What Can You Do?

The good news is that managing your diabetes well on a consistent basis can help delay or even prevent most, if not all, of these complications. Some of the most important research studies to date have shown that good glucose control over a long period of time is your best weapon against future health complications. It’s simply a matter of being educated on what good diabetes management entails and then sticking to it every day. The fours pillars of effective management of type 1 diabetes include:
  • Taking insulin as prescribed
  • Following a food plan
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Consistent glucose testing

Balancing your glucose levels with the first three is your daily challenge. Testing your blood regularly is your way of measuring your progress. But it’s important to realize that some days your glucose will be higher than others. The goal is to keep it in your target range as often as possible.

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