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If you suffer from diabetes and fail to control your blood glucose levels as you get older, there is a higher likelihood of suffering from complications. Common complications include issues with your eyesight and loss of sensation in areas such as your feet. One of the more advanced complications that is less well known is diabetic encephalopathy, which can affect your cognitive ability.

“Diabetic encephalopathy refers to the changes that occur in the brain as a complication of diabetes,” says Dr Muhammad Hamed Farooqi, Director and Consultant Endocrinologist, Dubai Diabetes Centre. “When the blood glucose levels are not under good control, then the brain is also affected.

“The symptoms are related to your day-to-day life so you could notice issues with mental tasks such as thinking or reading.”

Dr Farooqi explains that diabetic encephalopathy is a condition that predominantly effects the elderly and that once someone contracts the condition, it is difficult to treat. 

“When you suffer from encephalopathy, there is not much that doctors can do, therefore the focus is to try to get patient’s blood glucose levels under control from the very beginning and to try to avoid the spectrum of diabetes-related complications, of which encephalopathy is one. Diabetic encephalopathy is a part of this spectrum but most people would have a lot of complications earlier than that. It’s more common to see people with problems in their feet, where they experience a loss of sensation before they suffer from encephalopathy.”

Education is key

Prevention of complications is simply a matter of managing blood glucose levels and Dr Farooqi believes that education is key. “The first step we take is diabetes education. As soon as someone is diagnosed with diabetes, we have a dialogue with them about exactly what we are aiming for in the management of their condition. 

“We are not just pushing tablets or, later down the line, insulin. People have to understand that high or low blood glucose levels can happen in diabetes and that the majority of complications occur from high blood glucose levels, therefore as long as you have people who have a good understanding of why this disease is being treated, then you are going to have them avoid these complications.”