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Diabetic Vascular Complications

What vascular complications are associated with diabetes?

Diabetic complications are classified broadly as macrovascular or microvascular disease. Macrovascular complications include peripheral vascular disease which can lead to ulcers, heart disease, stroke, gangrene and amputation.

Microvascular complications include nephropathy (the most common cause of chronic kidney failure), neuropathy (nerve damage) and vision disorders brought on by the abnormal growth of blood vessels in your retina. These include glaucoma, retinopathy, corneal disease and cataract, all of which can lead to blindness.

Most often, vascular complications associated with diabetes affect the feet, characterized by ulcers and poor wound healing. In addition, neuropathy, a condition of the nerves, may result in a loss of the protective sensation in the toes or feet; its absence can increase the frequency of minor foot injuries

What causes the vascular complications associated with diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that hampers the regulation of insulin in the body, the hormone which controls blood sugar. Your body requires insulin to be able to use glucose your food to produce energy. Glucose is vital to your health because it is an important source of energy for muscle and tissue cells. It’s also your brain’s primary source of fuel.

Without enough insulin, glucose remains in the blood, creating excessively high levels of blood sugar. Over time, this buildup injures your nerves, heart, kidneys, eyes, and other organs.

No matter what type of diabetes you have, it means you have excess glucose in your blood, although the causes may differ. Too much glucose can lead to serious health problems. Chronic diabetes conditions include type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Potentially reversible diabetes conditions include pre-diabetes — when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes — and gestational diabetes, a condition which may develop during pregnancy but may resolve after the baby is delivered.

Diabetic vascular disease is characterized by the development of blockages in the arteries, sometimes called hardening of the arteries, combined with an increase in the thickness of arterial walls. Over time, this can have an adverse effect upon the circulation in your feet, kidneys, eyes, and blood vessels.

Are the vascular complications of diabetes dangerous?

The cardiovascular complications of diabetes are disabling, and even life-threatening. If you do not manage your diabetes or maintain healthy habits, you might develop serious health conditions, including severe kidney disease, blindness, heart attack, stroke, or sores on your feet. Eventually, if you develop dead tissue, which is known as gangrene, it could lead to an infection which ultimately requires amputation.

What are the common symptoms of vascular complications associated with diabetes?

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, blurred vision, slow-healing sores and coronary heart disease are common symptoms of diabetic vascular disease.

Who is at risk of vascular complications due to diabetes?

The onset and progression of diabetes-related complications are strongly linked to the presence of sustained hyperglycemia, referred to as high blood sugar. The rate and the severity of these complications increase with the duration of the diabetes. Other disorders such as hypertension, commonly seen in diabetics increase the risk for both macrovascular and microvascular complications.

Highest risk factors for vascular complications associated with diabetes include: genetics and family history; diseases of the pancreas; impaired glucose tolerance and/or impaired fasting glucose; certain infection or illness; obesity or being overweight; ethnic background; geography; a sedentary lifestyle; and age.

How are vascular complications associated with diabetes treated?

Controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure is the best way to inhibit or prevent these vascular problems. Frequent monitoring of your blood sugar levels and blood pressure is essential. Lifestyle choices and medication are often used to treat diabetes’ vascular complications. Injected insulin therapy, and oral therapy including low-dose aspirin are common medication treatments.

Are vascular complications associated with diabetes a common condition?

One out of every three people with diabetes is unaware they have this chronic condition. According to the American Diabetes Association calculates that nearly 7 million Americans are diabetic. The abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina, diabetic retinopathy, is responsible for more than 10,000 new cases of blindness every year in the United States alone. The leading cause of renal failure in the US is diabetic nephropathy.

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