Depression and Diabetes A Risk Factor for Diabetic Autonomic Neuropathy?



Constant attention to blood sugar levels, dietary restrictions, and feeling like you can’t enjoy what everyone else is eating are just some of the frustrations that those with diabetes experience every day. — Tamara McClintock Greenberg Psy.D.

According to research, people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from depression as those that do not have the condition. It is not known what the connection is – whether people with diabetes are more likely to develop depression or the other way round. Depression makes it much more difficult to manage the symptoms of diabetes so if you are diabetic and suffer from depression you should reach out. Find a Depression Chat Room or speak to a friend. According to Betterhelp, doing so may be helpful.

Diabetes that is not properly managed can lead to Diabetic Autonomic Neuropathy (DAN), a group of symptoms that affect various organs of the body. Diabetes-related health problems could, in turn, increase depression.





Risk factors for both depression and diabetes are similar and include obesity, a family history, inactivity, heart disease and hypertension. The management of diabetes is imperative, but for the sufferers of depression, this can be difficult.


The biggest risk factor for developing DANS is an uncontrolled glycemic index. Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and the length of time that diabetes has been present. Race and diabetic kidney disease can also have an impact. Both depression and diabetes must be managed if you are to be given the best chance at living life without the symptoms of DAN.

In her cross-cultural research on depression, psychologist Yulia Chentsova-Dutton likens depression’s constellations of symptoms to the starry sky. It’s the same universal experience of suffering, the same black vastness above our heads dotted with bright and dim lights. — Marianna Pogosyan Ph.D.




Around twenty percent of people with diabetes mellitus or sixty million people around the world suffer from DAN. This is a serious complication of diabetes, caused by damage to the nerves that control the involuntary functions of the body. Autonomic neuropathy involves the entire autonomic nervous system and generally results in one or more organs failing to work properly.


High blood glucose levels cause the damage to the nervous system. The damage disrupts the messages between the brain and the body. In turn, this can cause problems with major organs and systems, which are controlled by the autonomic system. These systems include the cardiovascular system, the gastrointestinal system, the bladder and sexual organs and the control of body temperature and sweating.


Moreover, DAN is one of the least understood side effects of diabetes.



The most common symptom of this disorder is the inability of the bladder to empty itself. This frequently leads to Urinary Tract Infections. In addition, there may also be urinary incontinence as a result of a loss of muscle control in the bladder.


Also common as a symptom is constipation. Although, some sufferers get diarrhea, particularly at night. Other gastrointestinal problems that may be present may be bloating, nausea, vomiting, and heartburn caused by gastroparesis, or food passing through the stomach improperly.


Another prevalent symptom is orthostatic hypotension, where the blood pressure drops when standing which causes dizziness and light-headedness.


Moreover, reduced sweating and dry skin can lead to cracking, irritation, and infection. There may be an inability to properly regulate body temperature or to manage the sweating system resulting in night sweats or sweating when eating. Erectile dysfunction is often also a problem.


A fast resting heart rate may be present. More frightening, DANS can cause a painless heart attack. The only signs of a heart attack happening may be spiking blood sugar, a weakness that remains unaffected by eating, nausea, shortness of breath and sometimes the swelling of the legs.


The most common symptom of DAN is Cardiovascular Autonomic Neuropathy (CAN). It is also the most studied symptom because it can have serious consequences. CAN is the damage to the autonomic management of the cardiovascular system. It causes poor circulation and low blood pressure, especially when the patient stands up. This can result in dizziness and fainting. Most importantly, this condition can be life-threatening.


Depression is a beast.

It’s an illness so insidious that sometimes you don’t realize the scope of its life-threatening power until you’re drowning under its wave. — Deborah Serani Psy.D.





DAN is difficult to diagnose and depends on the symptoms. But generally, the diagnosis will start with a series of blood tests to rule out other diseases.




There is no known cure. The only way to prevent DAN is to ensure that the diabetes is controlled. Once the condition has taken care of, only the symptoms can be treated.


For digestive problems, eating smaller meals and easy to digest foods such as soup are known to offer some relief. Medications can be used for the management of constipation or diarrhea. Also, raising the head of the bed can help to reduce heartburn.


In the case of postural hypotension, it may be managed by increasing consumption of fluids, reducing the consumption of alcohol and rising slowly from the sitting position. Compression stockings and abdomen support are often recommended. On the other hand, an Irregular heartbeat is generally managed by medication or the application of a pacemaker.




The best way to avoid damage to the Autonomic System is, first and foremost, to keep the sugar levels in check since this is what causes the damage. Physical activity will help to keep depression at bay and will also help to reduce the sugar levels in the body. Together with a healthy diet, it will help you keep weight under control.