What Happens After You Get Diabetes If Not Treated?

  1. What Is Diabetes?

    • Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how your body processes glucose---the body's main source of energy. There are three different types of diabetes: Type 1 typically begins in childhood or adolescence, type 2 is adult onset diabetes, which occurs at any age (generally after adolescence, with prediabetes symptoms manifesting first), and gestational diabetes, which happens during pregnancy.

    What Happens to Your Body If You Have Diabetes?

    • Ordinarily, your body gets glucose from food and your liver (which stores glucose), then during digestion the glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream. The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin to help your cells absorb the glucose, according to the Mayo Clinic.

      With type 1 diabetes, your immune system attacks the insulin producing cells of the pancreas and destroys them, so your body's cells can no longer absorb glucose. The sugar just builds up in your blood stream.

      With prediabetes and type 2 diabetes your cells slowly become immune to the insulin hormone, so the sugar does not absorb as quickly and eventually your body stops absorbing glucose altogether because the insulin does not work as a good bridge. Just like with type 1 diabetes, the sugar has nowhere to go and builds up in your blood stream.

      Gestational diabetes sometimes occurs because of all of the hormones produced during pregnancy that can sometimes make cells insulin resistant. Generally the pancreas can supply extra insulin as needed, but when it is unable to do so properly, gestational diabetes develops, and usually during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

    If Diabetes Is Untreated

    • Untreated diabetes can lead to some serious complications, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you have too much sugar in your blood (hyperglycemia) and do not control it, you risk irreparable kidney damage, neurological damage, cardiovascular damage and loss of vision.

      Untreated diabetes could also lead to ulcerations of organs like the liver, and neuropathy, or reduced sensation in the nerve endings of your extremities. This could lead to your damaging your feet without knowing it, or in a worst case scenario, a combination of neuropathy and poor circulation could lead to your having to amputate your feet because the cells will die and begin to rot.

      Untreated diabetes damages the kidneys by causing a build up of ketones in the body. Ketones are produced when your body, starved for energy, begins to break down an unusually large amount of fats. Your kidneys cannot filter them out quickly enough and become overwhelmed with the toxins.

    Symptoms of Diabetes

    • The most common symptoms listed by the National Institutes of Health for diabetes include unquenchable thirst and frequent urination, changes in appetite, especially extreme hunger, rapid, unexplained weight loss, sores that take longer than normal to heal, blurry vision (despite wearing corrective lenses), persistent fatigue and frequently getting infections in the gums, vagina, bladder or skin.

    Treatment Options for Diabetes

    • There are many treatment options for diabetes. For type 1, the only available remedy is to inject extra insulin to allow the body to absorb glucose. With type 2 diabetes there are oral medications to stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin, but as your cells become more resistant, you may need to switch to insulin injections. The goal of managing diabetes is to control how much sugar is in your blood, so you need to constantly monitor your blood sugar levels by testing them, and treating yourself accordingly. You also need to eat a healthy and balanced diet, low in animal products and sugars to help your body stay in balance. You do not have to give up sweets entirely, contrary to popular belief. By creating a healthy diet plan and including exercise in your daily regimen, you will be able to manage your symptoms and stay healthy.

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