Facing kidney, heart and eye problems with type 2 diabetes

5
minute read
December 5, 2022
Close up of a human eye, which can develop complications from diabetes as the disease causes the lens to enlarge.
Note: Image for illustration only. It does not show the author of this story.

My father-in-law was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in his early 40s. It was a diagnosis which completely changed his life.

The first signs of trouble

My father-in-law is a very lively and expressive man. He enjoys eating and loves feeding others.

His family has a history of diabetes, and his father was a diabetic, but he never gave it any thought.

Not until he began to unexpectedly lose weight and feel tired all the time.

He immediately went to see his doctor, who conducted some routine exams and discussed his current condition. His doctor advised him to fast for a week and monitor his blood sugar levels during this time, as well as for a week before and after.

The results were inconsistent. He had a high blood sugar level while fasting, and after fasting it would increase to between 350-400mg/dL (it should be less than 100 while fasting and less than 140 after).

His diabetes diagnosis

My father-in-law’s doctor prescribed him medication to stabilise his blood glucose level. But it didn’t work, and he kept having surges of high blood sugar levels.

So his doctor advised him to take an HbA1c test. This test confirmed he had type 2 diabetes, and his doctor increased the dosage of his medication.

However, after taking this medication for a long time my father-in-law noticed that his urine was pale and it was painful to urinate. He took a renal function test (RFT), which showed that he had a high level of creatinine (a waste product produced by your muscles) in his blood – His diabetes had caused his kidneys to deteriorate.

His doctor prescribed medicine to help his kidneys and replaced his diabetes medication with insulin.

Heart trouble

Unfortunately, my father-in-law’s problems didn’t end there – Having high blood sugar levels can cause long-term damage to your blood vessels and heart’s control nerves.

In 2007, my father-in-law had a severe heart attack.

In 2015, he underwent open-heart surgery.

However, even after open-heart surgery, his irregular pulse continued because of the significant impact his diabetes had on his cardiovascular system.

After evaluating him further, his doctor proposed my father-in-law have a pacemaker inserted to control his heart’s irregular rhythm.

Blurred Vision

As well as heart and kidney problems, my father-in-law also had trouble with his eyes.

Diabetes can cause the lens of your eye to enlarge, obscuring your vision. When you rapidly raise your blood sugar from a low level to a normal level, the effect this has on the lens of your eye can cause your vision to blur.

Struggling with his eyesight, particularly at night, led my father-in-law to avoid driving at all costs.

Changing his eating habits

Adding to his physical challenges, my father-in-law faced mental and emotional difficulties. As a foodie, he found it incredibly hard to change to a healthy diet with less salt and spices.

In addition, with diabetes it’s important to eat regular, balanced meals. This helps keep your blood sugar level stable and avoids problems with medication (which could otherwise cause a skipped meal to lead to a dangerously low blood sugar level).

Thankfully, our family were there to help however we could.

His wife and kids take excellent care of him and make sure he eats well and on a set schedule. They’ve put in a lot of time and effort to help him see the dangers of eating unhealthy food (like heavy, greasy breakfasts). They cook him plenty of veggies and have changed the time of their meals to match his so that he doesn’t feel like he’s going through this challenge alone.

As a result, his blood sugar levels are easier to manage.

Cutting out sugar

As a diabetic, my father-in-law knew he needed to drastically reduce the amount of sugar in his diet – Eating sugar would cause his blood sugar level to spike.

However, he still found it a struggle. At first, he would get angry if anybody tried to stop him from eating sweets. It took a while before he came to terms with the situation and began listening to his family.

He started by trying sugar substitutes, but his doctor advised against them because of the health risks of taking excess artificial sweeteners.

4 years ago, he learned about stevia, a natural sweetener. He now takes this instead of sugar and has had no negative reactions.

Getting exercise

Even before he was diagnosed with diabetes, my father-in-law exercised regularly and took long walks.

After he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, his doctor told him to walk briskly for at least 30 minutes every day – Doing this would increase his stamina, burn extra calories, improve his heart health, and make his body more responsive to insulin.

Now, my father-in-law likes to take a stroll first thing in the morning and then spend the rest of his day being active.

Final thought

Getting diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can be terrifying. But if you take your medication as directed, eat sensibly, and maintain a positive outlook, you can still live a healthy life; just like my father-in-law has.

Graphic of a female profile picture.
Ifra Baig

Ifra Baig is the daughter-in-law of a type 2 diabetic. She’s seen first-hand the challenges that living with diabetes can bring, but firmly believes they can be overcome by making simple, step-by-step lifestyle alterations and maintaining a positive attitude.

Editor's note: The opinions and experiences reflected in stories from the diabetic community belong to the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of InDiabetes.

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