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Diabetes is a serious condition that affects the whole body. People with diabetes can no longer control their blood sugar levels on their own and must use insulin and other methods to keep their blood glucose stable.
High blood sugar for extended periods damages your body in some surprising ways.
High blood glucose levels can lead to damage in large and small blood vessels all over the body. When it damages the blood vessels in your eyes it results in vision problems. Some symptoms are:
- Spots or dark strings floating in your vision
- Blurred vision
- Fluctuating vision
- Impaired color vision
- Dark or empty areas in your vision
- Vision loss
Keeping your diabetes under control will help prevent and treat any damage to your vision and eyes. Take any medications as prescribed, stay physically active and maintain a healthy diet. Because diabetic vision problems can go undetected until vision is lost, it is important to make sure you get a full eye exam every year if you have diabetes. Besides controlling your diabetes, there are other treatments available to help treat diabetic retinopathy. Talk to your eye doctor about your options.
Diabetes causes the blood to thicken, which limits the nutrients being transported throughout the body as well as the cleaning of waste from the body. Because of this, people with diabetes are more susceptible to infection than others. High glucose levels in the saliva can help germs and infections form. Gum disease, or periodontitis, is an infection of the gums that eventually leads to tooth loss. If you notice red, swollen gums and teeth that bleed when you brush and floss, talk to your dentist about gingivitis, the beginning of gum disease. If you have more advanced symptoms, such as gums pulling away from the teeth, pain, abscesses or loosening of teeth, see a dentist right away.
There are two ways main ways diabetes could affect your feet: diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease. In diabetic neuropathy, the nerves in the feet have become damaged. Damaged nerves mean you may have lost feeling, like hot, cold or pain, in your feet. This can cause additional problems if you get sores or cuts on your feet that become infected because you can’t feel them.
In peripheral vascular disease, the blood flow to your feet is very poor. Poor circulation means it takes longer for sores and infections to heal. If you have infections that will not heal, you are at risk for developing serious conditions such as ulcers or gangrene, which is where the tissue actually starts dying. Keeping your diabetes under control with medications, diet, and exercise is very important to prevent these serious conditions.
Because of poor circulation, people with diabetes may be susceptible to other foot problems as well, such as:
- Athlete’s foot
- Fungal infections
- Calluses, Corns, Blisters and Bunions
- Dry skin
- Foot ulcers
- Ingrown toenails
- Plantar Warts
A few foot care tips for people with diabetes are to wash your feet and check them daily for sores and blisters, apply lotion and always wear socks with your shoes.
Kidney damage from diabetes is called diabetic nephropathy and it is the number one cause of kidney failure. When high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the kidneys, the kidneys can no longer do their job. Instead of leaving your body, all the waste and fluids build up. Some of the signs of nephropathy are:
- Swelling in hands, face, and feet
- Trouble with sleep or concentration
- Not wanting to eat
- Muscle twitching
- A change in heart rhythm
Kidney damage can be limited or prevented, and diabetic nephropathy can be treated by lowering blood pressure and keeping the blood sugar under control. Talk to your doctor about medicines that slow the progression of kidney damage, like ACE inhibitors.
The best way to keep yourself healthy is to control your blood sugar, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. If you suspect any of these diabetic complications, talk to your doctor right away.