Diabetes is rapidly becoming a national epidemic. An estimated eighteen million Americans have diabetes and the number is growing, especially among children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that between 1990 and 1998, the incidence of diabetes rose by 70% in the population aged 30-39, by 40% among those 40-49, and by 31% in the 50-59 age group. Even more frightening is the fact that it is estimated that as many as 33% of the population with Type I diabetes and up to 55% with Type II go undiagnosed. Many patients have been hyperglycemic for at least six years before diagnosis.
Many chronic complications have been implicated with the diagnosis of diabetes. Keeping these conditions in check is vital.
Retinopathy is damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. It is important to note that there are no early warning signs for retinopathy. Annual eye exams with an ophthalmologist is imperative to catch this condition early. Retinopathy is the most frequent cause of new blindness and is related to the duration of the diabetes and also to the level of glucose control. In the nonproliferative stage there may no evidence of disease in the retinal vessels or there may be signs of beginning damage, such as yellow deposits. Microaneursyms, or intraretinal hemorrhages may be seen on exam. In this stage the treatment is blood pressure control, blood glucose control, and annual dilated eye exam. In the proliferative stage there is abnormal, fragile retinal vessel growth, vitreous hemorrhage, and vision loss. Common complaints are blurred vision, or spots and cobwebs in the visual field. Treatment for this stage is photocoagulation, which involves 1200-1600 scatter burns throughout the periphery of the eye, surgery for retinal detachment, and vitrectomy for persistent vitreous hemorrhage. The third phase of retinopathy is maculopathy, or macular edema. This involves a loss of central vision and the treatment is photocoagulation with argon laser. Retinopathy (treated or untreated) may worsen with exercise that increases intraabdominal pressure. This would include stretches, isometrics, rapid head movements, weight lifting, excessive jarring movements, and repetitive low head position movements.
Another complication associated with diabetes is nephropathy. The kidney’s filtering ability lessens and allows waste to remain in the blood. There are no early warning signs. Interestingly, 95% of patients with nephropathy also have retinopathy. Diabetes is the most common cause of ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease) and accounts for 30% of all cases. Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans are at higher risk that their white counterparts. Renal failure occurs in 5-15% of patients with Type II, and 30-40% with Type I diabetes. Renal disease is classified in stages from I-V. Stage I begins at diagnosis and there are no symptoms, although there may be renal hypertrophy and hyperfunction. Microalbumin levels are normal. Stage II usually begins...