If you are one of the 37.3 million people with diabetes, you cannot avoid hearing ” high blood sugar.” It is invisible to us. We cannot see it and understandably cannot imagine what is happening in our bodies. Unlike a bottle that is half full, we cannot see if our pancreas, the insulin-producing hormone that balances our blood sugar, is making enough insulin to metabolize the sugar in our body from the carbohydrates we eat.
How would you even know if you are producing enough insulin or if the insulin your pancreas has produced is used efficiently?
If you cannot answer these questions and do not test your blood sugar or wear a CGM, this is what can happen.
Let us assume your blood sugars are higher than the standard range for over two hours, as described by your doctor. If your blood sugar is over, 180 mg d/ for two hours or longer after eating, it can have severe and potentially life-threatening consequences. Mainly if left untreated or unmanaged without diet and exercise, it can lead to various short-term and long-term health complications.
The Short-term Consequences
Going to the Bathroom a Lot (Polyuria)
When your blood sugar is high, your kidneys work extra hard to get rid of the extra sugar by peeing a lot, making you feel thirsty all the time.
Constantly Feeling Thirsty (Polydipsia)
Because you’re losing fluid from frequent urination, your body makes up for it by being thirsty.
Feeling Tired (Fatigue)
High blood sugar can tire you because your body can’t use sugar properly for energy. Your cells are not getting the fuel they need to provide you with the energy you need.
High blood sugar can temporarily affect how you see things. It can change the shape of the lens in your eye, making it difficult to see something in a distance or the ability to see clearly.
Getting Sick More Often (Frequent Infections)
High sugar levels make it difficult for your body to fight infections because it impairs the function of the immune system, weakening its ability to respond effectively to invading pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Unintended Weight Loss
If you have uncontrolled diabetes, you might lose weight without trying. This happens because your body can’t use sugar for energy, breaking down fat and muscle for fuel.
When not managed with diet and exercise, the long-term consequences of high blood sugar can be devastating.
Heart and Blood Vessel Problems ( Cardiovascular Complications)
When your blood sugar stays high for a long time, it can make your heart and blood vessels sick. This can lead to serious heart issues, even a stroke. It’s like clogging up pipes with fatty stuff.
Nerve Damage (Neuropathy)
When blood sugar isn’t managed well, your feet and arms might not get enough blood, damaging your nerves. This makes you more likely to get sores on your feet that can get infected. In severe cases, you might need to remove part of your foot or leg.
Kidney Damage (Nephropathy)
Over time, high sugar levels can damage your kidneys, which is a filter for your blood. If they get damaged, it can cause kidney problems or even make them stop working.
Eye Damage (Retinopathy)
Diabetes that isn’t controlled can hurt the blood vessels in your eyes, making it hard to see well. It can lead to losing your sight. My mother lost her sight to diabetes.
Tummy Issues (Gastroparesis)
When the muscles in your stomach don’t work properly, it results from prolonged high blood sugar. The nerves controlling your digestion are damaged, and the food stays in your stomach longer than it should, leading to symptoms like feeling sick, throwing up, bloating, tummy pain, and trouble digesting food.
Mental Health Challenges
Managing diabetes can be challenging and sometimes makes you feel stressed or worried. It can even lead to feeling sad or anxious.
The short and long-term consequences were the long answer. If you are still asking what is so bad about having high blood sugar anyway, the short answer is that it affects most of the vital organs in your body.
Maintaining normal blood sugars can have a positive impact on various diabetes-related complications. Sometimes, it can lead to improvement or even reverse complications. However, it’s important to note that the degree of reversibility and the outcomes can vary depending on the specific complication, its severity, and how well blood sugar is controlled.
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About the Author
Nadia Al-Samarrie is the founder and Publisher of DiabetesHealth.Com, Diabetesforamsrtys.com, and the author of the Sugar Happy for Happy Blood Sugar series. She comes from four generations of type 2 diabetes, and the father of her children is a type 1.
Nadia is best known for being a diabetes patient advocate. Through her coaching, she helps people make informed decisions to avoid the devastating effects of diabetes complications. Her AskNadia column is ranked #1 by Google