Retinopathy: If blood sugar levels are too high, they can damage the eyes and cause vision loss and blindness. Retinopathy causes the development and leaking of new blood vessels behind the eye. Other effects of diabetes, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, can make this worse. According to the CDC, early treatment can prevent or reduce the risk of blindness in an estimated 90 percent of people with diabetes.
In an otherwise healthy individual, blood glucose levels usually do not rise above 180 mg/dL (9 mmol/L). In a child with diabetes, blood sugar levels rise if insulin is insufficient for a given glucose load. The renal threshold for glucose reabsorption is exceeded when blood glucose levels exceed 180 mg/dL (10 mmol/L), causing glycosuria with the typical symptoms of polyuria and polydipsia. (See Pathophysiology, Clinical, and Treatment.)
One particular type of sugar that has attracted a lot of negative attention is high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) — and for good reason, as multiple studies suggest HFCS can influence diabetes risk. Some research in people who are overweight and obese, for example, suggests regularly consuming drinks sweetened with either fructose, a byproduct of HFCS, or glucose can lead to weight gain, and drinks with fructose in particular may reduce insulin sensitivity and spike blood sugar levels.
Type 2 diabetes is due to insufficient insulin production from beta cells in the setting of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, which is the inability of cells to respond adequately to normal levels of insulin, occurs primarily within the muscles, liver, and fat tissue. In the liver, insulin normally suppresses glucose release. However, in the setting of insulin resistance, the liver inappropriately releases glucose into the blood. The proportion of insulin resistance versus beta cell dysfunction differs among individuals, with some having primarily insulin resistance and only a minor defect in insulin secretion and others with slight insulin resistance and primarily a lack of insulin secretion.
Sequelae. The long-term consequences of diabetes mellitus can involve both large and small blood vessels throughout the body. That in large vessels is usually seen in the coronary arteries, cerebral arteries, and arteries of the lower extremities and can eventually lead to myocardial infarction, stroke, or gangrene of the feet and legs. atherosclerosis is far more likely to occur in persons of any age who have diabetes than it is in other people. This predisposition is not clearly understood. Some believe that diabetics inherit the tendency to develop severe atherosclerosis as well as an aberration in glucose metabolism, and that the two are not necessarily related. There is strong evidence to substantiate the claim that optimal control will mitigate the effects of diabetes on the microvasculature, particularly in the young and middle-aged who are at greatest risk for developing complications involving the arterioles. Pathologic changes in the small blood vessels serving the kidney lead to nephrosclerosis, pyelonephritis, and other disorders that eventually result in renal failure. Many of the deaths of persons with type 1 diabetes are caused by renal failure.
Clinical Manifestations. Diabetes mellitus can present a wide variety of symptoms, from none at all to profound ketosis and coma. If the disease manifests itself late in life, patients may not know they have it until it is discovered during a routine examination, or when the symptoms of chronic vascular disease, insidious renal failure, or impaired vision cause them to seek medical help.
That said, some research does suggest that eating too many sweetened foods can affect type 2 diabetes risk, and with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating that 30.3 million Americans have the disease — and that millions of more individuals are projected to develop it, too — understanding all the risk factors for the disease, including sugar consumption, is essential to help reverse the diabetes epidemic.
Cataracts and glaucoma are also more common among diabetics. It is also important to note that since the lens of the eye lets water through, if blood sugar concentrations vary a lot, the lens of the eye will shrink and swell with fluid accordingly. As a result, blurry vision is very common in poorly controlled diabetes. Patients are usually discouraged from getting a new eyeglass prescription until their blood sugar is controlled. This allows for a more accurate assessment of what kind of glasses prescription is required.
Injections of insulin may either be added to oral medication or used alone. Most people do not initially need insulin. When it is used, a long-acting formulation is typically added at night, with oral medications being continued. Doses are then increased to effect (blood sugar levels being well controlled). When nightly insulin is insufficient, twice daily insulin may achieve better control. The long acting insulins glargine and detemir are equally safe and effective, and do not appear much better than neutral protamine Hagedorn (NPH) insulin, but as they are significantly more expensive, they are not cost effective as of 2010. In those who are pregnant insulin is generally the treatment of choice.
Glucagon is a hormone that causes the release of glucose from the liver (for example, it promotes gluconeogenesis). Glucagon can be lifesaving and every patient with diabetes who has a history of hypoglycemia (particularly those on insulin) should have a glucagon kit. Families and friends of those with diabetes need to be taught how to administer glucagon, since obviously the patients will not be able to do it themselves in an emergency situation. Another lifesaving device that should be mentioned is very simple; a medic-alert bracelet should be worn by all patients with diabetes.
People with these risk factors should be screened for diabetes at least once every three years. Diabetes risk can be estimated using online risk calculators. Doctors may measure fasting blood glucose levels and hemoglobin A1C level, or do an oral glucose tolerance test. If the test results are on the border between normal and abnormal, doctors do the screening tests more often, at least once a year.
The blood glucose levels may jump after people eat foods they did not realize were high in carbohydrates. Emotional stress, an infection, and many drugs tend to increase blood glucose levels. Blood glucose levels increase in many people in the early morning hours because of the normal release of hormones (growth hormone and cortisol), a reaction called the dawn phenomenon. Blood glucose may shoot too high if the body releases certain hormones in response to low blood glucose levels (Somogyi effect). Exercise may cause the levels of glucose in the blood to fall low.
Diabetes may have symptoms in some people, and no symptoms in others. Generally, people with Type 1 diabetes have increased thirst (polydipsia), frequent urination (polyuria), and increased hunger (polyphagia). Symptoms may develop over weeks to months. Untreated, this condition may cause a person to lose consciousness and become very ill (diabetic ketoacidosis).
Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels. If you have low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol, your risk of type 2 diabetes is higher. Triglycerides are another type of fat carried in the blood. People with high levels of triglycerides have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Your doctor can let you know what your cholesterol and triglyceride levels are.