It’s extremely easy to change the channel when one of the ADA / American Diabetes Association commercials come on the television. It’s also easy to overlook the intense thirst you might have, mood swings, sudden bouts of fatigue, a compromised immune system and the early signs of congestive heart failure from trying to quench your thirst. Ten years ago if someone told me that diabetes was ‘serious’ I would have laughed at them, in fact, I did laugh.
This September will be the six year anniversary of having my leg amputated in an emergency room after a blister turned septic. A blister? Yes. A blister. So when you hear the echoes of your bother saying, “Always wear clean underwear”, add socks to the list.
Ignoring diabetes won’t kill you but the complications from it will. I am a below the knee amputee and while that wasn’t directly the fault of the diabetes, if I had kept my blood sugar in check my body and immune system would have been strong enough to fight off the infection that eventually turned septic.
When I was diagnosed as a diabetic I didn’t take it seriously. So my blood sugar is on the high side, it’s not a big deal. The long term side effects of ignoring diabetes include a weakened immune system, reduced kidney function, vision problems, thyroid issues, heart attack, poor circulation, clogged arteries, necropsy, limb amputation and going into a diabetic coma from high blood sugar. That should be enough to scare someone in to taking the disease seriously but it wasn’t.
Other factors complicate diabetes; smoking, drug use, alcohol consumption, poor diet and obesity are all strikes against someone that is diabetic or has been identified as “pre diabetic”. Basically if you have been diagnosed as a diabetic and do engage in any of the above activities you are taking years off of your life. I don’t say that as a shock tactics, I say it as someone who (thankfully) lived through a septic infection and a heart attack.
Being a diabetic can be overwhelming; you need to change your diet, take medication or injections and have your blood taken every three to six month. Again, I ignored all of that. I felt fine, I walked at least five miles a day, had a lot of energy and my vision prescription hadn’t changed for years. When my “normal” lifestyle started catching up with me it wasn’t something drastic. My ankles were a little puffy or I’d need to take a nap about twenty minutes after I ate. Eventually the thirst got to me; I could drink two or three glasses of ice water when eating and still want more. That leads to bloating and feeling sluggish; your body can only handle a certain amount of liquid intake at a time in order to be able to properly process it. If you have heart issues from ignoring your diabetes it could lead to congestive heart failure.
Even with the information that you are going to be bombarded with when newly diagnosed you have to keep one thing in focus; if you slip up and give in to temptation it isn’t the end of the world. I battled with my blood sugar levels for three months when I finally started taking it seriously and saw only minor, small drops so I gave up completely. If I would have had an endocrinologist that actually cared about “the patient” instead of “the payout” chances are I would have gotten a little pep talk that would have kept me on the straight and narrow.
You can’t realistically expect to go from a blood sugar level of 340 to 100 or lower in one day, you can’t even expect that in a week or a month but it will happen. Support groups never appealed to me but I did get a lot of great advice online; you aren’t alone and every day hundreds of people are diagnosed as diabetic or pre diabetic.
Diabetic neuropathy, if left untreated, could lead to amputation. That goes hand in hand with poor circulation and too much sodium in your diet. It might start with a toe or two but eventually you will lose your ankle, lower leg and then the upper leg. Is an extra order of onion rings or a candy bar worth that? Sure, you do have to make sacrifices but once you get your blood sugar under control you can have an occasional treat.
The long term side effects of ignoring diabetes are hard to manage; once it gets to the point where you have damaged your heart and have neuropathy it’s the point of no return. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes and aren’t taking it seriously, I invite you to come spend the weekend with me so you can see what you have to look forward to when you lose your leg. It’s not a question of “will it happen”, it’s a question of “when it will happen”