What is the potential long term problems of type 2 diabetes?

Expert Answers
pacorz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Type II diabetes, also know as adult-onset diabetes, affects the entire body. Because diabetes causes excess glucose in body fluids, the osmotic balance of cells is disturbed, resulting in a wide variety of side effects.

Blindness can occur with type II diabetes as a result of cataracts, glaucoma, or macular degeneration. Diabetic nephropathy, or kidney disease, is a common problem for type II diabetics, and can become life-threatening. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can result from type II diabetes, and can create stress on the heart, resulting in chronic heart disease.

Diabetic neuropathies are a significant problem; the osmotic imbalances in the body create swelling, which can impede blood and  oxygen flow to tissues and result in nerve damage. This makes the diabetic unaware of everyday discomforts such as blisters and other small injuries, which  go unnoticed and untreated. The poor circulation and excess glucose in the tissues make bacterial infection much more likely than normal, and the same issues make healing slow and difficult. Diabetics are therefore at very high risk for major infections and amputations, particularly in the leg and foot area.

lalithareddy | Student

In general, people with type 2 diabetes have a lifespan that is five to ten years less than those without the disease. The most common long-term effect of type 2 diabetes is damage to blood vessels. 13 Because of this, diabetics are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease, which can result in blocked arteries, and eventually lead to a stroke or heart attack. The main cause of death in type 2 diabetes sufferers is cardiovascular disease and associated complications. 9

Besides damage to the blood vessels, chronic diabetes may also lead to the following complications: 12

  • Eye problems including retinal detachment, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, or cataracts
  • Foot problems: These are primarily due to circulation difficulties, which can result in skin infections or deformities to the foot. Because diabetes can damage nerves, you may not feel an injury to the foot until a sore or infection develops. 13
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Fungal infections of the skin, female genitalia, and urinary tract
  • Kidney disease, also known as diabetic nephropathy
  • Nerve damage, also known as diabetic neuropathy
lanarn2md | Student

Diabetes can be controlled with proper exercise and diet as well as medication.  Just as Pacorz responded, diabetes can have many chronic forms.

In addition, the excess sugar in our bloodstream goes through a process of glycosylation and results in deposits that occur throughout our blood vessels. These deposits is what leads to the visual changes secondary to a decrease in blood flow.  These same sugar deposits can also form on our coronary arteries and lead to an Acute Myocardial Infarction (heart attack) or in our brains arteries leading to a stroke.

As Pacorz has mentioned it can lead to neuropathy (decreased sensation of nerve pain) not just in the feet but also the heart.  Diabetics do not always experience the same intensity of chest pain as someone who doesn't have diabetes. For this reason, diabetics do not always know they had a heart attack.

The key is to keep the glucose (sugar) levels in the blood in a normal range despite being a diabetic.