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Complications

High blood sugar levels can seriously damage parts of your body. Here we share stories from people who have experienced diabetes complications, or who are trying to prevent them.

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Diagnosed with type 2 after having gestational diabetes

Losing my sight

The sight loss was absolutely terrifying. I had three young children and I was trying to play it down as much as I could, because I didn't want to worry them. I couldn't drive and we were a mile and a half from the nearest bus stop. I couldn't recognise people, all I could see was silhouettes. It was really being dependent on people to take me to places.

Luckily, my husband was working nights at the time, so he was at home most of the time during the day and could help.

I had to have six weeks off work. At the time I was working as a community nurse and relied on driving, which I now couldn’t do. I work in the intermediate care team, where we support people in crisis to stay at home and avoid a hospital stay, so a lot of my job is driving to and from patients and doing assessments. Even things like using a blood pressure machine or thermometer were quite hard with my eyesight. Work were very good and supportive, and they gave me the more local patients so that I could walk to some of them. 
 

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Mike smiling into the camera on holiday

MikeDiagnosed with type 1 in 1976

Complications

I spent about 35 to nearly 40 years in the IT industry, driving up and down the country, and that’s when things started to get worse and worse. I was pursuing my career, rather than looking after my health.

This led to problems with my feet, and what started out as a small blister turned into an infection and then Charcot foot. I’ve also had problems with my eyes too, and have been through 11 lots of laser to try and treat my retinopathy over eight to ten years.

I’ve got a fantastic podiatry team now, in a hospital about two miles down the road which is brilliant for me. I don’t do too much walking now because I can’t put much pressure on my feet.

As well as Charcot foot, I’ve got advanced neuropathy in both feet, so I can’t feel a thing in either of them. And that means I need to be careful about how far I walk - I only really go from my home to the car now.

When I want to go further, I use an electric wheelchair; that helps to reduce the pressure of my feet. My podiatrist said recently that my feet have never looked better! 

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Abdul RaisAbdul Rais was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1999 at the age of 46

Being careful

When I was diagnosed, I’d probably had diabetes for a few years. In the early days, they found some diabetes damage at the back of my eye so I had some laser surgery to stop the bleeding.

I also had some nerve damage in my feet – and the sensitivity level had dropped. If I touch my feet on the lower half of my legs now, it’s as if I’ve got socks on.

But nothing has got worse. I get my annual checks. And I try to look after myself – no one else is going to. I’ve always been quite independent minded.  

Lifestyle changes

I made small changes to my lifestyle quite a few years ago now. I started walking regularly. And now I’ll just have a piece of chocolate instead of sitting with a box of chocolates in the evening. I do have a very sweet tooth. But I do have to battle against sweets and cakes, although I’m not a big eater. I don’t eat that much Asian food but I love Chinese food which also has a lot of carbs.

When I was first diagnosed and put on insulin, that ended my career in IT since I had started experiencing hypos quite often which meant that I could no longer drive long distances without having the constant fear of hypos. A change of career was necessary if I were to continue to work in order to pay the bills.

My new career was translation and interpreting. Translations jobs would arrive via email and I would translate the documents from home and return them via email. Interpreting jobs were local too so I would only have to travel 25-30 miles from home to law courts, police stations and hospitals.

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Sarita Sarita Gandhi was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1994

Dealing with neuropathy and retinopathy

Over the years, I’ve found that I’ve started to lose some feeling in both my feet. My doctor said that some of the blood vessels are damaged because of neuropathy, so I make sure to keep checking them.

Around 10 years ago I was also told that I had developed retinopathy in both of my eyes. I started going to appointments every year so they could monitor my eyesight, but this changed to every six months when they noticed some more changes to my vision.

My last appointment was in October and I’m glad it still went ahead. I wasn’t sure if the coronavirus pandemic was going to affect it, but luckily it didn’t.

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David smiling at the camera in front of some deer in a park

DavidDiagnosed with type 1 in 1971

Being more active and managing hypos

I always test my blood sugar before I go for a walk and always take plenty of hypo treatments with me. I would never go anywhere or do anything energetic without taking those precautions anyway.

Hypos are constantly on your mind, but that’s part and parcel of having diabetes.  I think that might be one of the reasons people with diabetes suffer from anxiety and depression. There are so many things that you have to check and worry about.

I think that if you do a similar walk every day at the same time, you’re unlikely to have a hypo completely out of the blue unless you exert yourself too much or your blood sugar is too low when you set out.

There are lots of variables when it comes to managing your blood sugar, but if you do some activity every day, you can make it work with your diabetes in the same way that having the same food every day does. You shouldn’t get any major surprises. And as long as you are prepared for any potential hypos, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Struggling to move more?

Call our helpline for one-to-one support. Our trained specialists will help you build your confidence and find new ways to get moving. Get in touch by calling 0345 123 2399 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm, or emailing helpline@diabetes.org.uk.

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