Diabetes Mellitus Type II (DMII) is one of the 41 Agent Orange diseases that the VA has included on its list of presumptive illnesses due to Agent Orange and other types of herbicide exposure. In other words, if you developed DMII and were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service in Vietnam during the period January 9, 1962, through May 7, 1975, or you served in a unit in or near the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) anytime between April 1, 1968, and August 31, 1971, you do not have to prove a connection between the disease and your military service to be eligible to receive VA disability compensation. VA presumes a service-connected relationship exists, based on certain eligibility criteria that DMII or adult-onset diabetes is associated with exposure to Agent Orange. That being said and as if diabetes weren’t enough, there are diseases that are secondary to DMII. In other words, there are diseases that could develop due to having DMII. Some common complications that can develop from DMII are:
- Heart disease and stroke-Cardiovascular disease is the leading causing of death for people who have diabetes. That’s because high blood sugar can cause a gradual buildup of fatty deposits that clog and harden the walls of blood vessels. And when blood vessels are partially blocked or narrowed, it can lead to a stroke or heart attack.
- Kidney disease- Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney failure. At least half of all people with diabetes may have signs of early kidney problems. High blood pressure, or a family history of it, can raise your risk of chronic kidney disease. Raised blood pressure also seems to speed up the development of the disease. Unfortunately, as kidney problems worsen, they themselves can be a cause of hypertension, creating a vicious cycle.
- Nerve damage-Diabetes can often lead to nerve disorders called neuropathies. If your blood vessels have narrowed from fatty deposits, then your nerves may become damaged because they’re not getting the oxygen and nourishment they need. Nerve damage may also be caused by other factors, like inflammation. Diabetic neuropathy can give you symptoms of pain, numbness or tingling in your legs and toes, arms and fingers. Or you might have digestive complaints like nausea, indigestion or constipation. The nerve damage can even cause sexual dysfunction.
- Amputations-There are two reasons why diabetes can lead to amputations of your feet or legs. Because of narrowed blood vessels, circulation to your lower body parts may not be top-notch. That means cuts or sores on your feet or legs will have a tough time healing and can get worse instead of better. Second, if you have nerve damage from diabetes, you might not feel the pain of a foot problem. Sores that you don’t notice can become infected and fester, leading to the need for amputation.
- Vision Loss-Diabetes can cause blockages or abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina, the part of the eye that reads images. Blood vessel changes in the retina can lead to vision problems and even blindness. People with diabetes are also more likely to develop cataracts or glaucoma, two other serious eye diseases.
You are your own best advocate. No one will look out for you the way that only you can. You know how you feel and what health issues you may be experiencing. You certainly don’t want to wait for the VA to suggest you may be suffering from one of these Secondary Conditions! Keep in mind; these are merely some of the common secondary conditions that result from DMII. The VA does not have an official list of secondary conditions. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor and ask if your symptoms or diagnosis is related to your diabetes mellitus. If your doctor thinks that what you are experiencing is related to your diabetic condition, ask him/her to provide you with a medical opinion stating so. It is not required for your doctor to prove that the secondary condition is related to your military service, only that the condition is related to your service connected diabetes mellitus. If your doctor shy’s away from wanting to make that opinion, you may need to seek a doctor that is willing and able to provide you with an independent medical evaluation (IME) and/or an independent medical opinion (IMO). An opinion given by a non-biased provider could be very strong evidence in your favor. The more qualified the provider is; the more solid the evidence is considered. In other words, the opinion given by a specialist will carry much more persuasive power than perhaps that of a Physician’s Assistant at the VA. IME trained physicians are taught to use the correct VA verbiage and understand or are guided by attorneys who know the laws and how the report must be written in order to meet the multitude of VA standards.
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