Why does diabetes hurt so many parts of the body?
There are two kinds of diabetes, type 1, the kind you are born with or get as a child and used to
be called juvenile diabetes. It occurs because the body can't produce any insulin and the
pancreas just doesn't work right. They can't produce any insulin at all.
Adult-onset diabetes or type 2, is a problem that occurs when the pancreas
can no longer produce enough insulin for its needs. Oral medications are given to help the
pancreas produce extra insulin and when that doesn't work any more insulin is given.
The sugar molecule is the main culprit in diabetes. All foods we eat eventually must be broken
down to sugar or glucose in order for the body to use. Foods that start out as sugars like
starches and sweets go straight into the bloodstream as sugar and hit the pancreas first to be
The sugar molecule relatively speaking is large, as opposed to salt that separates in the body
into sodium and chloride, which is much smaller. Glucose is both large and 'sticky'. Think
about sugar that is spilled. When you step on a dried puddle it sticks to the shoe. In the body
those molecules stick to our red blood cells and to the walls of the blood vessels and inside
many of our organs.
Problems occur when they move with the blood into the very small blood vessels, the
capillaries, of our body. The blood vessels get small when they reach important organs like
our eyes, heart, kidneys and liver. Those large molecules tend to cause damage by decreasing
blood flow when they block those small vessels. They can also cause tears and inflammation.
So what does all of this mean? Well, a recent article states that just about any chronic health
problem is worse when the person has diabetes. The article was specifically dealing with heart
disease and congestive heart failure. Heart failure occurs many times after a person has
survived a heart attack. They may have a part of their heart muscle weakened due to damage
from the heart attack and then further damage comes from diabetes which weakens the
muscle even more.
So, any health problem becomes more serious when diabetes is part of the equation. The
damage that occurs becomes worse because it becomes more widespread involving more body
parts and making the body more stressed. Healing is more difficult and takes longer.
We never expect to develop long-term health problems. Our bodies are very resilient and can
recover time and again. But over time, the more we treat it badly the harder it is to recover.
Diabetes can creep up on the body and cause problems when we aren't even aware. We
need to have our sugar checked to make sure it hasn't developed and keep track of our
own ability to handle the amount of sugar we put in our bodies.
- Sandy Turner, EdD, RN-C, FNP