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Microvascular Complications of Diabetes

written by: DulceCorazon • edited by: lrohner • updated: 8/19/2010

Diabetes microvascular complications can pose serious health threats to diabetics. Here are the causes and symptoms of these serious health complications.

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    There are three primary diabetes microvascular complications that diabetics are at risk for. These are diabetic eye disease, or retinopathy, diabetic nerve disorder, or neuropathy, and diabetic kidney disease, or nephropathy. These microvascular complications of diabetes usually manifest at least 10 years after the diagnosis of the disease among young patients. In older patients, these complications may present earlier.

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    Diabetic Retinopathy

    Diabetic retinopathy, or diabetic eye disease, pertains to a classification of eye problems that diabetics may suffer as a complication of their condition. Most diabetic eye diseases can cause blindness. The condition may cause damage to the retina, particularly on the blood vessels, cataracts or even blindness. Glaucoma, an increased fluid pressure inside the eyes, is also considered a diabetic retinopathy condition. This frequently results in the damage of the optic nerve and possible blindness.

    Damage of the blood vessels from diabetic retinopathy can cause changes in vision in two ways. First, the development of abnormal blood vessels can leak fluids into the middle portion of the eye, blurring patients' vision in the process. Likewise, fluid can leak into and cause swelling of the macula, which is responsible for your central vision. The swelling of the macula can blur the vision of the eye, a condition referred to as macular edema.

    Diabetic patients are encouraged to undergo annual eye examinations to detect any development of diabetic retinopathy at an early stage.

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    Diabetic Neuropathy

    Diabetic neuropathy refers to nerve disorders resulting from diabetes. It is estimated that 6 out of 10 individuals with diabetes have nerve disorders. The risk of getting diabetic neuropathy generally rises with the age and duration of the diabetes.

    Diabetic neuropathy is said to result from different factors such as high blood glucose, low insulin levels, abnormal levels of blood fat and neurovascular factors. It may also be caused by mechanical injury to the nerves, genetic factors increasing the person’s risks to nerve disease, and lifestyle factors like alcohol abuse and smoking.

    Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy include numbness, tingling in certain parts of the body like legs, arms and hands, diarrhea, dizziness, urination problems, erectile dysfunction and weakness.

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    Diabetic Nephropathy

    Diabetic kidney disease, or diabetic nephropathy, is a common complication of diabetes. The cause of this disease is still unknown, although many experts believe that uncontrolled levels of high blood sugar can lead to kidney damage, especially in diabetics with high blood pressure. Too much blood sugar can damage nephrons or cells in the kidneys which are responsible for removing waste from the body. Genetic factors may also contribute to diabetic nephropathy.

    Symptoms of diabetic nephropathy include fatigue, frequent hiccups, headache, itching, lack of appetite, swelling of the legs, and unexplained weight gain. Treatment of diabetic kidney disease includes the use of ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers.

    These are three of the common diabetes microvascular complications that people with diabetes must be aware of. These complications can also be avoided with diabetes control, lifestyle changes and regular medical consultations.

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