Identifying vascular complications
The Society for Vascular Surgery has released a list of six diabetes vascular complications and how to avoid them. Nurses can use the list to identify risk factors and educate their diabetic patients. In a press release, the SVS listed diabetic eye disease, peripheral artery disease, foot ulcers and peripheral neuropathy, smoking complications, heart attack and renovascular conditions as the six most common complications of diabetes stemming from hyperglycemia or high blood sugar.
“Diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for any form of vascular disease, both symptomatic and asymptomatic,” Gregory Moneta, MD, a member of the Society for Vascular Surgery and professor and chief of vascular surgery at Oregon Health and Science University Knight Cardiovascular Institute, stated in the press release. “Those with diabetes should have regular doctor visits and tests, and may need to see specialists such as ophthalmologists, vascular surgeons and podiatrists for checkups.”
The release recommended the following courses of action:
Eye disease: “Be alert for changes in vision. Have a dilated eye exam at least annually.”
Peripheral artery (or arterial) disease: “A daily walk is often the first prescription, as long as there are no other health problems, such as an ulcer on the foot.”
Foot ulcers and peripheral neuropathy: “Ulcers can be prevented with frequent foot checks and proper diabetic footwear.”
Smoking complications: “It can be hard to quit smoking, but for diabetics it is a must.”
Heart attack: “Maintain weight, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and report chest pain, exercise intolerance or shortness of breath to a doctor.”
Renovascular conditions: “Good blood sugar and blood pressure control can reduce the risk of diabetes-associated kidney failure.”
The Society for Vascular Surgery also includes a PDF for patients, which is downloadable on the website.
Additional health risks
The American Diabetes Association delineates additional diabetes health risks, such as skin complications, gastroparesis and ketoacidosis, among others. It also lists lesser-known related conditions such as HIV, frozen shoulder, sleep apnea and hemochromatosis.
The latest statistics on diabetes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that it is the seventh leading cause of death, with 29.1 million people, or 9.3% of the population having diabetes. The CDC also reported that “from 1997 to 2011, the number of people aged 35 years or older with diabetes and with self-reported heart disease or stroke increased from 4.2 million to 7.6 million.“
UpToDate, a website that offers medical information and answers to medical questions, offers handouts for patients, including “Patient education: Preventing complications in diabetes mellitus (Beyond the Basics)” by David K. McCulloch, MD. The article provides an overview of complications followed by preventive methods. “Many of these complications produce no symptoms in the early stages, and most can be prevented or minimized with a combination of regular medical care and blood sugar monitoring,” McCulloch said in the article.
More about diabetes and vascular disease, including patient resources can be found at the Society for Vascular Surgery website.
Click here for a range of continuing education modules on diabetes.