People who are diagnosed with diabetes may ask, “How does diabetes affect the body?”. The answer is that it can cause issues in many areas. The good news is that the growing awareness of the potential for complications, along with advances in diabetes treatment, means that people with the disease are living longer, healthier lives.
So, it’s important to understand how diabetes can affect the body. That knowledge can help you identify health issues early and work with your doctor to adjust your treatment to address them.
What Are the Complications of Diabetes?
Effectively managing your condition can help minimize or prevent the common complications of diabetes that can occur if it’s left untreated. What are the complications of diabetes? Items on the diabetic complications list can be:
Diabetes greatly increases your risk of certain cardiovascular issues due to the narrowing of blood vessels and other factors. These issues include heart attack, stroke and coronary artery disease.
The tiny blood vessel clusters in the kidneys that filter waste can be damaged by diabetes. If the damage is severe, it can result in kidney failure or even end-stage kidney disease, with symptoms like swelling in the feet and legs.
Damage to nerves, known as neuropathy, can occur if excess blood sugar damages the walls of the blood vessels that nourish them. If this occurs, you may experience tingling, numbness, a burning sensation, or pain in areas like the feet, lower legs, and hands.
Diabetes can damage blood vessels in a few ways. Sugar-based materials can accumulate in the walls of the vessels, and the condition can cause inflammation in the vessels. Both problems narrow the blood vessels, affecting the areas and organs they support.
If the blood vessels of the retina are damaged (a condition called diabetic retinopathy), a person with diabetes can lose their sight. Diabetes also increases the risk of other conditions like glaucoma and cataracts.
Diabetes increases the risk for gum disease. You may notice this condition as redness and swelling of the gums.
People with diabetes are more likely to develop skin problems. For example, you may experience more bacterial and fungal infections.
Diabetes can contribute to hearing loss, though why this happens isn’t completely understood. It’s possible that damage to blood vessels caused by the disease leads to damage of the auditory nerves that those blood vessels support.
Diabetes (most commonly type 2 diabetes) and sleep issues are interconnected. Diabetes can cause frequent urination, which means people don’t sleep well because they’re up many times each night to use the bathroom. There’s also evidence that not sleeping well increases the risk of developing diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes appears to increase the risk of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease. While the relationship between the conditions is still being researched, it seems that the more poorly controlled blood glucose levels are, the greater the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Understanding type 1 diabetes complications and complications of diabetes type 2 is very important if you have either of these conditions.
Prevention of Diabetes Complications
Making positive lifestyle changes can go a long way toward the prevention of diabetes complications. Some of the steps you can take to minimize or eliminate complications of diabetes include:
- Developing and sticking to a healthy eating plan
- Getting regular exercise
- Maintaining a healthy blood pressure
- Managing your cholesterol
- Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
- Taking medication as prescribed
- Seeing your doctor regularly
Learn More About Diabetes Complications with Baptist Health
Take charge of your condition or help a loved one by exploring diabetes services at Baptist Health.