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February 7, 2012
Why should you treat diabetes?

Last week we looked at how you know that you have sugar. This week we will discuss why you should treat sugar.

Most people do not understand why we should treat sugar, because usually when they are diagnosed they do not have problems like pain. They usually do not have any life-threatening illness and they generally feel fine, apart from a few minor complaints like feeling hungry all the time, feeling thirsty, drinking a lot and peeing a lot.{{more}} Once they are diagnosed and treated, and feel better, they usually ask the question: “Why do I need to continue taking medication?” To make matters worse, I even heard a “herbalist” saying that if he was diagnosed with sugar, he would not take “drugs” for life, as these “drugs” can damage you over a period of time. Instead, he said that he would use “natural” herbs to treat his diabetes. What he did not say is that these natural herbs also contain “drugs,” which can also have side effects. Like the medications used to treat diabetes, these herbs also need to be taken for life. I see too many people in my office with uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension taking “herbs and bush,” when they were previously taking medication, which controlled their sugar and pressure.

So then, why take medications for sugar? Because, given time, sugar will damage your body and eventually kill you. Buy you say, “Doc, we all have to die” and I say, “yes, we all do, but sugar when untreated will shorten your lifespan and when you die with sugar you do so miserably”. Sugar damages your brains, eyes, nerves, blood vessels, sex life, heart, kidneys and limbs. Eventually you die, but only after being incapacitated by the sugar for usually years before you die.

So, how does sugar affect so many organs? The answer is via your blood vessels and nerves, In other words, sugar can affect the blood vessels, and since every organ in your body has to get blood to stay alive, then sugar affects them. To put it simply, sugar affects the very small and medium sized blood vessels in the body and causes a set of changes called diabetic vasculopathy. This is a nice medical word for blood vessel disease, caused by diabetes. The blood vessels are damaged in such a way that the body attempts to form new blood vessels. These new vessels are not as strong as the previous ones and burst easily, worse if you have high blood pressure. This causes your many organs to swell or get inflamed. Eventually, when the swelling settles months to years later, the organ is already damaged. This is a rather simplistic way of putting it; indeed, it is much more complex, but for the purposes of this article this will suffice.

The nerves are also affected, but by a different mechanism. The nervous system and nerves are very sensitive to the body’s sugar levels. When the sugar is persistently high, as in poorly controlled or undiagnosed diabetes, then insulation on the nerves, which causes them to function, is damaged. This causes your nerves to start short-circuiting and eventually stop functioning. This process is called diabetic neuropathy. The patient usually starts experiencing body aches and pains that move from one place to the next. He or she may also experience pain in the limbs associated with “pins and needles”. These sensations are eventually lost and then the limb (usually feet and hands first) goes numb. This loss of sensation is what causes diabetics to damage their feet and not know. The damaged foot then becomes infected, because the person does not know the foot was damaged and hence did not take care of it. The infection spreads, because the blood vessel to the foot is damaged and the infection fighting cells in this poorly flowing blood are also weakened because of the diabetes. Eventually the foot becomes gangrenous (dead and black) and infected and hence smelly. These patients lose their feet, not because they have diabetes, but because their diabetes is poorly controlled. These are usually the patients that do not take their medications, because it will “poison them”. Next week, we look at the other organ damage that takes place with diabetes.

For comments or question contact:
Dr Rohan Deshong
Tel:(784) 456-2785
email: deshong@vincysurf.com