Type 2 diabetes is a condition that generally requires some significant management — whether it’s checking your blood sugar or keeping up with doctor’s appointments.
On top of managing the condition itself, you also have to contend with the risk of complications related to type 2 diabetes. For example, living with type 2 diabetes means you’re at increased risk of complications such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and foot problems.
Good self-care is key to managing the condition effectively and reducing your risk of complications. Here are six common complications of type 2 diabetes and steps you can take to lower your risk.
1. Heart disease
People with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In general, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but people who live with type 2 diabetes are at even greater risk than people who don’t have the condition.
Paying attention to the main risk factors for heart disease, and addressing them, may help decrease the risk. The CDC reports that the main risk factors include:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- physical inactivity
- not eating a healthy diet
- being overweight or obese
- drinking too much alcohol
If left unchecked, these risk factors can greatly increase your chance of experiencing heart disease. The best way to reduce your risk is to set personal health goals and achieve them, such as exercising regularly and eating a well-balanced, healthy diet.
Medication can be used to treat conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Your doctor can discuss these options with you.
People with type 2 diabetes are 1.5 times more likely to have a stroke than people who don’t have the condition, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). If you’re living with type 2 diabetes, you can familiarize yourself with the warning signs of a stroke. These include:
- numbness on one side of your body
- difficulty speaking
- vision problems
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. The sooner a stroke is detected and treated, the less damage it may do to your brain.
Working with your doctor on an effective treatment plan for type 2 diabetes can help lower your risk of stroke. Lifestyle habits such as exercising regularly and eating healthfully can also make a difference.
3. Kidney disease
Kidney disease is another complication that can affect people with type 2 diabetes. This is because of the connection between blood sugar, also called blood glucose, and the kidneys. When blood glucose levels are too high, the kidneys struggle to filter blood and the blood vessels within the kidneys are damaged.
Symptoms of kidney disease include fluid buildup, weakness, nausea, loss of sleep, and trouble concentrating. These symptoms often don’t occur until kidney function is significantly impaired, which makes kidney disease difficult to detect.
Managing your blood sugar levels is a key part of lowering your risk of kidney disease. High blood pressure also increases the risk of kidney problems. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor can talk to you about options to lower it. It’s also important that you see your doctor to get tested for kidney-related problems on a regular basis.
4. High blood pressure
According to the ADA, 2 out of 3 people with type 2 diabetes report either having high blood pressure or taking medication to lower it. If left untreated, high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, vision problems, and kidney disease.
Seeing your doctor regularly can help you stay on top of both managing type 2 diabetes and monitoring your blood pressure. Your blood pressure should be checked during every healthcare visit. You can take steps to lower your blood pressure by maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if needed.
In general, healthy lifestyle habits can help lower blood pressure. Try to eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, and take time to relax. It’s also helpful to include whole grains in your meals, follow a low-sodium diet, and avoid tobacco and alcohol.
5. Eye damage
People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing eye problems like glaucoma and cataracts. Another complication that can affect the eyes is called retinopathy. This condition occurs when high levels of sugar in the blood cause damage to the retina’s blood vessels. If left untreated, retinopathy in its most severe form can cause complete loss of vision.
New treatment options for retinopathy can prevent blindness in most cases, but it’s better to take steps to prevent the condition altogether. Working with your doctor to monitor and manage your blood sugar levels can lower your risk for this condition.
6. Foot problems
Type 2 diabetes can increase your risk of a number of complications that affect the feet. Most diabetes-related foot issues are caused by nerve damage, sometimes referred to as neuropathy.
Neuropathy causes unpleasant sensations in the feet, such as tingling, burning, and stinging. Neuropathy can also decrease your ability to feel sensations like pain, heat, and cold. In turn, this raises a person’s risk of injuries that can lead to infection. In advanced cases, neuropathy may change the shape of the feet and toes, requiring special shoes or insoles.
If you’re experiencing any sensations that could be neuropathy, let your doctor know right away. Addressing neuropathy early can help prevent further complications later on.
Keeping your blood sugar levels in a healthy range can reduce your risk of neuropathy. It may also help to exercise regularly and wear comfortable shoes. If you’re a smoker, consider quitting as soon as possible, and ask your doctor about smoking cessation therapies, medications, and programs that can help.
If you live with type 2 diabetes, you also live with a higher risk for certain related complications. You can take steps to lower your risk by working with your doctor to find an effective type 2 diabetes treatment plan. Managing your blood sugar levels, and other key aspects of your health, can help you avoid complications in the future.
Doing your best to establish healthy lifestyle habits can also make a significant difference. If you’re finding it difficult to make lifestyle changes — such as losing weight, quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising more — talk to your doctor. They can provide guidance about the most important changes to focus on, and refer you to services that may help.