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Diabetes Complications

Diabetes Complications

When Control Is Lost

As a rule, complications of diabetes mellitus rarely occur in patient that control their blood sugar levels well. When glycaemic control is lost, especially due to bad eating habits, lack of exercise, obesity, smoking, or high blood pressure, the risk of developing diabetes complications increases greatly. This article gives brief information on acute and chronic complications of diabetes mellitus.

Acute Diabetes Complications

Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is an extremely dangerous medical emergency condition. It is caused by low levels of insulin and high levels of ketone bodies in the blood. A person with diabetic ketoacidosis gets severely dehydrated, experienced abdominal pain and increased breathing. DKA may lead to loss of consciousness and coma. If treatment is not given as soon as possible, diabetic ketoacidosis quickly progresses to hypotension, shock, and death. DKA is more common among patients with Type 1 diabetes.

Nonketonic Hyperosmolar State

Nonketonic hyperosmolar state is caused by severely elevated blood glucose levels (higher than 300 mg/dL). The symptoms are quite similar to those of DKA, though the origin of this diabetes complication is different. Nonketonic hyperosmolar state is caused by osmotical displacement of water out of the body cells, which leads to severe dehydration. If this state is not treated immediately, it progresses to coma. Nonketonic hyperosmolar state is more common among patients with Type 2 diabetes.


Hypoglycaemia is a state of having too low blood sugar levels. In diabetic patients, it usually develops due to consuming too little carbohydrates, taking too much insulin or anti-diabetic medication, etc. Its classical symptoms include sweetening, weakness, dizziness, headaches, irritation, anger, depression, panic. When hypoglycaemia is left untreated, it leads to seizures, coma, brain damage, and even death. Mild hyperglycaemia is treated by taking drinks or foods rich on carbohydrates. Severe hypoglycaemia requires an injection of glucagon or intravenous infusion of dextrose.

Diabetic Coma

Diabetic coma develops as a result of one of diabetes complications, such as diabetic ketoacidosis, nonketonic hyperosmolar state, or severe hypoglycaemia. It is a medical emergency that should be treated as soon as possible; otherwise, the patient can die.

Respiratory Infections

People with diabetes mellitus are more susceptible to respiratory infections due to weakened function of immune cells and increased risk of inflammation. Besides, diabetes usually worsens the course of respiratory diseases and slows down the recovery processes.

Chronic Diabetes Complications

Chronic hyperglycaemia leads to a large number of chronic diabetes complications. Those that are caused by the damage of small blood vessels include:

  • Diabetic cardiomyopathy – disorder of the heart muscle that may lead to heart failure.
  • Diabetic nephropathy – a progressive kidney disease that leads to kidney failure and requires the patient to receive dialysis.
  • Diabetic neuropathies – a group of neuropathic disorders caused by the damage of small blood vessels supplying the nerves. It leads to diabetic foot (foot ulcers), autonomic neuropathy, and diabetic amyotrophy.
  • Diabetic retinopathy – retinal damage that leads to blindness.

Chronic complications caused by the damage of large blood vessels include:

  • Coronary artery disease – accumulation of plaques in the coronary arteries that may lead to angina or myocardial infarction.
  • Diabetic myonecrosis – caused by the dead muscle tissue, usually in a thigh.
  • Peripheral vascular disease – obstruction of large arteries that may lead to intermittent claudication and diabetic foot.
  • Stroke – disturbance in the brain blood supply.

The best way to reduce the risk of all of these diabetes complications is to keep proper control over your diabetes.

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