Heart problems, kidney troubles, digestive issues and vision problems. Unmanaged diabetes can affect just about every system in your body. But you can take charge of your health so you can continue to feel your best.
Talk to your doctor if you have diabetes or risk factors for diabetes. Your doctor can help you manage your blood sugar levels to prevent or minimize diabetes complications. Make an appointment with your provider today so you can get on track to a healthier life.
Diabetes can harm many different systems in the body. That’s why proper management and regular care from your provider is important. Knowing about these complications is the first step to preventing or managing them.
Diabetes complications include:
Your blood sugar is closely related to heart health. If your blood sugar is high, you’re more likely to have high LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. People who have diabetes have double the risk of heart disease or stroke.
High blood sugar damages blood vessels in the kidneys. This condition, known as diabetic nephropathy, may lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD). People with CKD may eventually need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage caused by diabetes. Neuropathy can lead to numbness and pain in the feet and legs. It can also damage organs such as the heart or stomach.
Nerve damage in the feet can make it hard to feel pain, cold or heat. Blisters, burns or wounds may go unnoticed and not heal properly. Unhealed wounds can lead to infections and, in severe cases, amputations.
Mental health conditions
Depression is more common in people who have diabetes. High blood sugar also increases the risk of getting dementia.
Diabetes can damage nerves in the stomach, leading to gastroparesis. If you have gastroparesis, your stomach can’t empty as it should, causing nausea, vomiting and heartburn. It can also cause unpredictable blood sugar spikes.
Men and women who have diabetes have a higher risk of bladder problems and urinary tract infections. Diabetes can also cause urine leaks.
Oral health problems
High blood sugar changes the bacteria in the mouth. You can be more prone to getting plaque, cavities and gum disease.
Diabetes can damage nerves in the ear, causing hearing loss. It happens slowly, so many people don’t notice it in the early stages.
A combination of high blood sugar and high blood pressure damages blood vessels in the retina. This condition, known as diabetic retinopathy, is the top cause of blindness in U.S. adults.
Nerve damage from diabetes can affect the sexual organs. Men may have trouble keeping an erection and ejaculating. Women may have vaginal dryness and trouble with arousal.
Preventing diabetes complications
Your provider can partner with you to help you prevent or manage these issues so you can stay healthy. These steps can help prevent diabetes complications:
- Eat a healthy diet: Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein. Cut back on sweets, fast food and other processed foods. Limit or avoid sugary drinks and alcohol.
- Work toward a healthy weight: Losing even a small amount of excess weight can improve your blood sugar and triglyceride levels. Try to lose 5% to 7% of your body weight to start.
- Exercise: Physical activity helps control blood sugar levels. It also helps your body manage insulin, which improves diabetes. Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
- Medication: If your provider prescribes medication, take it as directed. Ask your provider any questions you have about your medications.
- Regular checkups: See your provider regularly to discuss screenings and ways to manage diabetes. Tell your provider if you notice any new symptoms or have concerns about your health.
Manage your ABCs
Your ABCs are the key to preventing diabetes complications. If you have diabetes, work with your provider to stay on top of:
- A = A1C: Get regular A1C tests to check your blood sugar levels. Ask your provider when you should get this test.
- B = Blood pressure: Keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. Your provider can help you set a blood pressure goal that’s right for you. Use a digital monitor at home to track levels daily. Learn more about tools to manage high blood pressure.
- C = Cholesterol: Controlling cholesterol is essential to diabetes management. Talk to your provider about your cholesterol and how to achieve healthy levels.
- S = Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of diabetes complications. If you need help quitting, ask your provider. Some health plans offer smoking cessation programs. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
Maximize your health with diabetes management
You can take control of diabetes complications and live a healthier life. Talk to your provider about how to start your diabetes management plan so you can feel your best. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, you can search for doctors by specialty, location and insurances they accept.
Sources: American Diabetes Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases