7 Ways Diabetes Affects the Body

by Yumhee Park Content Producer

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a multitude of complications because the disease affects the body in many ways. With this condition, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes a buildup of sugars in your blood, which can wreak havoc on your body. Here's what diabetes can do to your body.

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Heart

Having diabetes increases your risk of developing a multitude of heart disease problems, such as chest pain, high cholesterol, narrowing of the arteries, and high blood pressure. Many of these problems may be subtle or be "silent" until a major event, such as a heart attack or stroke.

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Vision

Diabetes remains the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S. It can lead to various eye problems, including glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy.

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Skin

Diabetes can cause wounds or sores in the skin to heal more slowly, which can result in people with diabetes being more susceptible to infections.

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Teeth

Gum disease risk also can increase with diabetes. Gum disease can lead to inflamed gums and eventually to tooth loss.

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Kidneys

Kidney disease is one more potential complication of poorly controlled diabetes, and, unfortunately, it can develop over a number of years before symptoms show. Symptoms include swelling of the legs and feet. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure among adults in the U.S. When someone with diabetes has excess sugar in their urine, they become prone to more urinary track infections.

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Nerves

Nearly 70 percent of people with diabetes will suffer from nerve damage. High blood sugar levels can harm nerves, and can develop either peripheral diabetic neuropathy (usually starting in the toes or feet) or autonomic neuropathy (damage to the nerves that control internal organs). Diabetic neuropathy is one of the main causes of erectile dysfunction as well.

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Digestive system

With the nerve damage that may be caused by poorly controlled diabetes, can come nausea, constipation, or diarrhea.

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Preventing complications

Well-controlled diabetes can keep all these effects at bay and even stop them. To better control your diabetes, make sure to control your blood glucose levels with medication or through a lifestyle change. Eating healthy, losing weight, and engaging in regular physical activity all can help keep your diabetes under control and your health on track.

Yumhee Park
Meet Our Writer
Yumhee Park

Yumhee Park is a former content producer for HealthCentral and helped bring important stories of health advocates to life as a member of the Live Bold, Live Now multimedia team.