How Diabetes Affects Your Body

How Diabetes Affects Your Body

Learn what to do to help reduce the risk of the serious health problems associated with diabetes

The following information will help you learn about diabetes and how it can affect parts of your body.

Diabetes and your heart

If you have diabetes, you are more likely to have a stroke or heart disease. In fact, 2 out of 3 people with diabetes die from stroke or heart disease.

For people with diabetes, heart disease is the leading cause of death. Major causes of heart disease are high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, which are common in people with diabetes.

How to help protect your heart if you have diabetes

Diabetes and your kidneys

Diabetes can increase your risk for kidney disease. Your risk is much higher if you are Hispanic/Latino, African-American, or Native American.

You may not know if you have kidney disease. In the early stages, kidney disease causes no symptoms.

Why is kidney disease dangerous?

If kidney disease is not treated, your kidneys may stop working. This is called kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease.

Having kidney disease also increases the chance of getting heart disease.

There is no cure for kidney disease but there are things you can do to help prevent it. The earlier you find and treat it, the better your chances are of keeping your kidneys healthy. Visit your health care provider regularly to help manage your diabetes. This will help you prevent kidney failure, also called end-stage renal disease.

Things you can do to help prevent kidney disease

  • Visit your health care provider regularly. Get screened for kidney disease to catch problems early.
  • Follow your health care provider’s advice. Sometimes exercise, changes to your diet, and medicine can help keep your kidneys healthy.
  • Ask your health care provider about ways to
    • Keep your blood sugar under control.
    • Keep your blood pressure at goal. High blood pressure can lead to kidney disease or make it worse.
    • Lose weight, if you are overweight.
    • Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking.
    • Be active every day. Talk to your health care provider before starting any physical activity.

Diabetes and your eyes

Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in people between the ages of 20 and 74.

Diabetes may cause these common eye problems

  • Diabetic retinopathy. This is damage to the retina. The retina is a thin layer of tissue covering the back of the eye.
  • Cataracts. These make your vision foggy or cloudy.
  • Glaucoma. This is high pressure in your eye. It can also damage your vision.

Retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss for people with diabetes.

You can have retinopathy and not know it. Your vision may seem fine at first. By the time your vision changes, your eyes could already be damaged. That’s why it’s important to get yearly eye check-ups.

How to help protect your eyes from problems

  1. Keep your blood sugar under control.
  2. Keep your blood pressure under control.
  3. Have a dilated eye exam every year.
  4. Stop smoking.

Diabetes and gum disease

Diabetes can worsen gum disease. If you have gum disease, it can cause blood sugar to rise. Serious gum disease can damage your gums and the bone around your teeth.

Gum diseases include

  • Gingivitis (jin-ja-VI-tis). This is an early form of gum disease.
  • Periodontitis (per-E-O-dahn-ti-tis). This is severe gum disease.

Things you can do to take care of your gums and teeth.

  • Brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day.
  • Have your teeth cleaned at the dentist office at least 2 times a year.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Keep your blood sugar under control.

Diabetes and your feet

If you have diabetes, it is very important to take care of your feet. In severe cases, diabetes can lead to the loss of a foot or leg. This is why it is best to try to prevent problems before they happen.

Diabetes can cause 2 different problems in your feet

  1. Nerve damage. The nerves in your legs and feet can be damaged by high blood sugar. This may affect your ability to feel pain, heat, or cold in your legs and feet. You may also have odd feelings or numbness. This nerve damage can lead to a sore or an infection, which may get worse because you do not know it is there.
  2. Poor blood flow. This means that too little blood reaches your legs and feet. This makes it hard for a sore or an infection to heal.

How to help protect your feet from problems

Things you can do to protect your feet:

  1. Keep your feet clean and protect them from injury.
  2. Check the skin on your feet every day.
  3. Keep the blood flowing to your legs and feet.

Diabetes and your nervous system

Diabetes is a leading cause of nerve damage. Nerve damage is also called neuropathy. It can cause tingling, pain, or numbness in your feet and hands.

Nerve damage can also cause problems in other parts of your body.

You might have nerve damage if you

  • Have numbness, tingling or pain in the toes, feet, legs, hands, arms, or fingers
  • Often feel like you have a full stomach or throw up a lot
  • Have trouble going to the bathroom
  • Feel dizzy or weak
  • Sweat more or less than usual
  • Lose the desire or ability to have sex

Ways to help protect yourself against nerve damage

You can do many things to help lower your chance of getting nerve damage. If you already have nerve damage you can help stop it from getting worse.

Do these steps to keep your body working well:

  • Talk to your health care provider who can diagnose neuropathy based on your symptoms and physical exam.
    • Discuss any problems, including numbness, tingling, pain, problems with digestion, trouble going to the bathroom, or problems having sex.
  • Keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol in control.
    • Check your blood sugar regularly.
    • Have your health care provider test your A1C at least 2 times a year.
    • Eat healthy and stay active.
    • Take your prescribed medicines.
    • Control your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
  • Have healthy habits
    • If you are overweight, lose weight with diet and exercise.
    • Stop smoking.
    • Limit your alcohol use.

Keeping your blood sugar levels in your target range can help prevent or delay nerve damage and other problems.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest