Many with long-term high blood sugar face the same bowel issue
High blood sugar: What are the warning signs?
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Short-lived bouts of diarrhoea are commonplace, but when bowel incontinence chronically strikes late at night, it may have a more serious cause. Sometimes, chronic high blood sugar inflicts ongoing damage and irritation to the small intestine. In the case of many diabetic patients, this is the underlying cause of their “nocturnal” diarrhoea.
Multiple studies have identified diabetes as a trigger of diarrhoea, along with several other gastrointestinal (digestive) problems.
Some research indicates that loose bowel movements are a common affliction among those who have had diabetes for a while.
“Over time, people with diabetes may develop neuropathy from high blood sugar levels,” explains Cleveland Clinic.
“Neuropathy can lead to problems with how food and fluid travel through the colon. It also affects how your digestive system functions as well.”
The health body continues: “Sometimes people with diabetes-related diarrhoea also experience faecal (bowel) incontinence, especially at night.
“That’s because nerve damage (neuropathy) due to diabetes affects the anal sphincter. The anal sphincter is the muscle that opens and closes to allow poop to exit your body.”
Nocturnal diarrhoea was investigated by a group of journalists in 2016 who reported their findings in the journal Diabetes Therapy.
In their introductory paragraph, it was pointed out that “enteropathy is a less well-recognised gastrointestinal manifestation of diabetes and can be considered to be symptoms that affect the large bowel”.
“Clinical presentation includes diarrhoea, constipation and faecal incontinence which can often be nocturnal.”
The scientists continued: “The nature of the symptoms associated with diabetes enteropathy can by definition be both distressing and often multifaceted.”
They added that overt steatorrhea – which describes an increase in fat excretion in the stools – had also been reported in a minority of patients.
Dysfunction of the autonomic nerve is a key causative factor with respect to enteropathy in people with diabetes.
Several other factors may also play a role in enteropathy, however, such as altered gastrointestinal hormone secretion, inflammation or genetic predisposition.
All of these problems tend to be enhanced when blood sugar levels are high in the body, and should therefore guide medical practitioners seeking to diagnose the disease.
Though autonomic neuropathy is deemed a long-term risk of diabetes, patients with pre-diabetes are also at risk.
In pre-diabetes, blood sugar levels are slightly higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.
The rise in blood sugar levels in these preliminary stages can prompt the development of other complications like insulin resistance.
Insulin is critical for helping the body move glucose out of the bloodstream and into the cells for the body to use up as energy.
Catching the disease in these initial stages is therefore key to offsetting a diabetic diagnosis.
If the body is unable to use up glucose in the blood, however, this is a clear indication that a diabetes diagnosis could be imminent.
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