The Complications Diabetics Want to Avoid

This post is a personal one. It’s about the complications that diabetes causes. Or more specifically, about the complications it has caused for me, and what I hope I can help other people avoid through the use of the Active Diabetes app.

So, a few months ago I suffered a ‘neurological event’. Basically, I got up after a mild hypo and went completely numb down one side. My face, arm, leg and torso on my right hand side was completely dead to any feeling. Strangely, I could still move everything, and pretty quickly the numbness was replaced with an intense tingling. It took about a week to recover from the tingling sensation, and 3 or 4 weeks before I stopped slurring my speech and getting tongue-tied, and a slight bit longer before I stopped forgetting simple words. An MRI showed no permanent brain damage, and there was disagreement between doctors as to whether it was caused by a TIA or something directly related to my diabetes.

For diabetics, the risk of clots is high. We die younger. There’s little point in me having a pension as I won’t make it to 70. Right now I’ll be happy to make 50.

But clots aren’t the only issue. Either through the fluctuations in sugar levels, or higher sugars in general, or a combination of both, the small blood vessels in your body get damaged. This causes neuropathy, which can lead to losing feeling in your extremities, after years of random but painful nerve spasms. Yeah, they’re fun. The nerves in my stomach don’t function properly either. That means food isn’t moved through properly, and I don’t know when I’m full properly. If I don’t pay attention to the amount I eat I can eat too much before I realise. Then I’m sick. Also fun. It also causes retinopathy, where your eyes leak blood onto your retina. this pushes the retina away from the nerves and causes blindness. I have injections in my eyes once every four weeks to stop the fluid buildup. The scarring across my retina requires removal by surgery. That’s fun too.

Then there’s the kidney damage. The likelihood of kidney failure in diabetics is high. Currently my kidneys constantly leak protein, but haven’t yet reached the stage of needing any additional treatment for that, but it’s coming. Heart disease is coming too. I’m already on a statin. Only a low dose but early thirties is pretty young for that. And the erectile dysfunction. That’s coming too.

On top of that, there’s the damage done to your immune system. A none diabetic might get a cold and feel rough for a few days. For me it takes a week to fight off. Thrush type infections are common. There’s an increased risk of picking up infections. Flu can be a literal killer. Wounds don’t heal.

These symptoms don’t work in isolation either. They combine together to make life harder. Neuropathy may cause your feet to go numb, so you don’t feel it when you injure yourself. Your immune response is compromised, so your injury doesn’t heal. Suddenly, a small cut on the foot is an ulcer. Infected and pus-ridden, the only solution is amputation. Bye bye feet. Fortunately, again, I’m not that far down the road.

On top of all this, there’s the simple day to day issues caused by walking the tightrope of sugar control. If you’ve ever felt shaky when you’re hungry, that’s what being hypo feels like. Only that’s what it feels like if your sugars are about 4mmol. at 3mmol you sweat, shake, find concentrating difficult and become… irritable. At 2, you’re lucky to be conscious. and are likely to be convulsing on the floor. High blood sugars make you tired, thirsty, and pretty rough.

The only way to stop all this is to keep control of your sugars. To test, to monitor and to analyse. It’s time consuming and easy to forget. Hopefully our app can make this process easier, and help at least delay some of these issues for it’s users.