TYPE 2 DIABETES The Whole Body Effect. UNLIKE VIRTUALLY every other known disease, has the unique and malignant potential to devastate our entire body.
Practically no organ system remains unaffected by diabetes. These complications are generally classified as either microvascular(small blood vessels) or macrovascular (large blood vessels).
Certain organs, such as the eyes, kidneys, and nerves, are mostly supplied by small blood vessels. Damage to those small blood vessels results in visual problems, chronic kidney disease, and nerve damage typically seen in patients with long-standing diabetes. Collectively, these are called microvascular diseases.
Other organs, such as the heart, brain, and legs, are perfused by large blood vessels. Damage to larger blood vessels results in narrowing called atherosclerotic plaque. When this plaque ruptures, it triggers the inflammation and blood clots that cause heart attacks, strokes, and gangrene of the legs. Together, these are known as macrovascular diseases.
How diabetes causes damage to blood vessels? It was widely considered to be simply a consequence of high blood glucose, but the truth, as we’ll see, is far different.
Beyond the vascular diseases are many other complications, including skin conditions, fatty liver disease, infections, polycystic ovarian syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. However, let’s begin with the problems associated with small blood vessels.
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness. Eye disease-characteristically retinal damage (retinopathy)- is one of the most frequent complications of diabetes. Read more about Retinopathy
The main job of the kidneys is to clean the blood. When they fail, toxins build up in the body, which leads to loss of appetite, weight loss, and persistent nausea and vomiting. If the disease goes untreated, it eventually leads to coma and death. Read more about Nephropathy
Diabetic nerve damage (neuropathy) affects approximately 60-70% of patients with diabetes. Once again, the longer the duration and severity of diabetes, the greater the risk of neuropathy. Damage to different types of nerves will result in different symptoms, including:
The incessant pain of severing diabetic neuropathy is debilitating, and the symptoms are commonly worse at night. Read more about Neuropathy
If the nerves to the heart are affected, the risk of silent heart attacks and death increases.
No current treatment reverses diabetic nerve damage. Drugs may help the symptoms of the disease but do not change its natural history. Ultimately, it can only be prevented.
Atherosclerosis is a disease of the arteries whereby plaques of fatty material are deposited within the inner walls of the blood vessel, causing narrowing and hardening. This condition causes heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease, which are collectively known as cardiovascular diseases. Diabetes greatly increases the risk of developing atherosclerosis. Read more about Atherosclerosis
Heart attacks, known medically as myocardial infarctions, are the most well-recognised and feared complication of diabetes. They are caused by atherosclerosis of the blood vessels supplying the heart. The sudden blockage of these arteries starves the heart of oxygen, resulting in the death of part of the heart muscle. Read more about Heart Disease
A stroke caused by atherosclerosis of the large blood vessels supplying the brain. A sudden disruption of the normal blood flow starves the brain of oxygen and portion of the brain may die. Symptoms vary depending upon which part of the brain is affected, but the devastating impact of stroke cannot be underestimated. Diabetes is a strong independent risk factor in stroke, meaning that, on its own, diabetes increases a person’s risk of having a stroke by as much as 150-400%. Approximately a quarter of all new strokes occur in diabetic patients. Every day of diabetes increases the risk of stroke by 3%, and the prognosis is also far worse.
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is caused by atherosclerosis of the large blood vessels supplying the legs. The disruption of normal blood flow starves the legs of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin. The most common symptom of PVD is pain or cramping that appears with walking and is relieved by rest. Diabetes, along with smoking is the strongest risk factor for PVD. Approximately 27% of diabetic patients with PVD will progressively worsen over a five-year period, and 4% of them will need an amputation. Read more about Peripheral Vascular Disease
Fatty liver disease
Skin and nail conditions
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
TREAT THE CAUSE, NOT THE SYMPTOMS:
WHEREAS MOST DISEASES are limited to a single organ system, diabetes affects every organ in multiple ways. As a result, it is the leading cause of blindness. It is the leading cause of kidney failure. It is the leading cause of heart disease. It is the leading cause of stroke. It is the leading cause of amputations. It is the leading cause of dementia. It is the leading cause of infertility. It is the leading cause of nerve damage.
But the perplexing question is why these problems are getting worse, not better, even centuries after the disease was first described. As our understanding of diabetes increases, we expect that complications should decrease. But they don’t. If the situation is getting worse, then the only logical explanation is that our understanding and treatment of type 2 diabetes is fundamentally flawed.
We focus obsessively on lowering blood glucose. But high blood glucose is only the symptom, not the cause. The root cause of the hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes is high insulin resistance. Until we address that root cause, insulin resistance, the epidemic of type 2 diabetes and all of its associated complications will continue to get worse.
We need to start again. What causes type 2 diabetes? What causes insulin resistance and how can we reverse it? Obviously, obesity plays a large role.
DIABETES The Whole Body Effect.