If you’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes (often called adult onset diabetes or T2DM) you’ve probably been told by your doctor, nurse, and dietitian about managing your blood sugar. You’ve been told about eliminating refined sugars, reducing carbohydrates, increasing your fiber, and choosing a diet rich in lean meats, healthy fish, whole grains, heart healthy fats, whole fruits, and lots of vegetables. You’ve probably been taught how and when to test your blood sugar levels and how to manage your medications. You’ve been taught that exercise can help. You’ve probably been taught all of these things and more.
For some, all of the lifestyle and dietary changes that come with having type 2 diabetes are overwhelming and may seem like a lot of work to fix something you can’t see and doesn’t really bother you anyway. Just because you feel fine when you’re blood sugar is nearing 200 mg/dl doesn’t mean your body is fine. Knowing what the high levels of sugar in your bloodstream are doing to your body can help make all of the changes you should be making seem more important.
So, what does high blood sugar do to your body?
Hyperglycemia, or blood sugar over 180 mg/dl, can lead to symptoms of increased thirst, headaches, blurred vision, confusion, and frequent urination. An incredibly high blood sugar, even one time, can be harmful and potentially deadly. Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a medical condition that can occur when not enough insulin is present and your body switches to breaking down fat for fuel and produces high levels of acidic ketone bodies. This usually requires immediate medical attention to correct, and can lead to coma and even death if not treated timely or properly.
Even elevated blood sugars that don’t require immediate medical attention can hurt your body as well. When you don’t have enough insulin for your body to absorb the sugar into the cells, the sugar stays in your blood and winds its way around your body. Along the way the abnormally high sugar levels damage blood vessels.
The damage to the blood vessels can have irreversible consequences. When blood vessels to the eyes are damaged, people can experience worsening vision, including loss of vision or blindness. Blood vessels to the extremities (particularly the hands and feet) can be damaged leading to reduced blood flow and loss of sensation. This can lead to ulcers and infections, which can lead to amputation. Nerves in the kidneys are also commonly affected by high blood sugar. As the kidneys are damaged, their ability to function properly as a blood detoxifier can be reduced. Over time this can lead to end stage kidney disease, which can require dialysis treatments in order to sustain life.
In addition to the nerve damage to the eyes, kidneys, and extremities, high blood sugar can also damage the heart. This makes diabetics at higher risk of heart attacks, as well as strokes. High blood sugar can also lead to more frequent infections, including urinary tract infections, vaginal infections, and skin infections.
High blood sugar can lead to all of these things, and it does for many people. According to the CDC, over 30 million Americans had diabetes as of 2015, and it was the seventh leading cause of death. By helping Americans control their blood sugar, we can help reduce rates of obesity, kidney disease, amputations, heart disease and stroke.
Managing your blood sugar everyday can seem like a daunting task. It can require changing the foods you eat, taking medications, weight loss, and exercise. But these tasks pale in comparison to the changes in your life after an amputation, or while on dialysis, or after you’ve lost your vision. Type 2 diabetes can be controlled. Knowing the risks associated with high blood sugar can provide the motivation you need to manage your blood sugar consistently.
This information is offered by Dr. Shillingford, MD, PA. Dr. Shillingford is a board certified surgeon specializing in advanced laparoscopic and bariatric surgery. Dr. Shillingford’s patients often have obesity as well as other comorbidities such as diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and circulatory disorders. These conditions put his patients at high risk and Dr. Shillingford is committed to helping his patients improve their lives and their health through weight loss, lifestyle changes, exercise, and bariatric surgery, including gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and lap band surgery. To learn more about gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and lap band surgery, call Dr. Shillingford’s office to schedule a free informational session. Call (561) 483-8840 today to take control of your health and your life.