Diabetes Complications

Diabetes affects your entirebody and increases your risk for many serious health problems, but complicationsare avoidable. You can prevent or delay complications. You can control your bloodsugar (glucose), eat healthy foods and be physically active. You also can getscreening tests to prevent or diagnose and manage other conditions. It is also important to work tokeep blood pressure and cholesterol within the range prescribed by your doctor.

Prevent or Delay Complications 

Complications may be preventedor delayed by managing diabetes and keeping blood sugar within the rangeprescribed by your health care team. Consult your doctor for treatment if youdevelop any of the following conditions:

Skin Conditions

People with diabetes tend toget bacterial infections more easily that those without the disease. Common ones includestyes (infections in the glands of the eyelids), boils, infections in the hairfollicles, carbuncles and infections around the finger or toenails. Inflamedtissues are usually hot, swollen, red and painful.

Some people with diabetes also are troubled by fungal infections, most commonly candida albicans. This is ayeast-like fungus that may cause an itchy red rash surrounded by tiny blistersand scales in the warm, moist folds of the skin. Other fungal infectionsinclude jock itch, athlete’s foot, ringworm and vaginal infections. Itching isa frequent problem for people with diabetes, particularly in the lowerlegs.

Eye Disease

You may have heard thatdiabetes can cause damage to your eyes and cause poor vision orblindness. But there is good news. You can prevent diabetic eye disease or keepit from getting worse by managing diabetes. The most common eye problemsaffecting people with diabetes are diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macularedema, cataracts and glaucoma.

Nerve Damage

Nerve damage from diabetes iscalled diabetic neuropathy. Over time, high blood sugar levelsand high levels of fats (such as triglycerides) in the blood from diabetes candamage your nerves. Symptoms depend on the type of diabetic neuropathy.Different types of nerve damage cause symptoms that range from pain andnumbness in your feet to problems with the way your internal organs (such asyour heart and bladder) function.

Foot Problems

Foot problems are common inpeople with diabetes and often cause concern. It’s possible to prevent diabetes-relatedfoot conditions by managing your blood sugar, washing and checking your feetdaily, and following up with your doctor if problems begin. Look for signs of cuts,sores or red spots, swelling or blisters, ingrown toenails, corns or calluses,plantar warts, athlete’s foot and warm spots.

Kidney Disease

Diabetes is the leadingcause of kidney disease. Diabetic kidney disease (nephropathy) damages cells andblood vessels in the kidneys. It affects the kidneys’ ability tofilter out waste. Diabetic kidney disease happens slowly and silently. Youmight not feel that anything is wrong until severe problems develop. You can doa lot to prevent kidney problems. Get your blood and urine checked each year. Keep your blood sugar and blood pressure levels in a healthy range, asprescribed by your doctor.


If you have diabetes, thechanges you experience during pregnancy will affect your blood sugar levels. It may may require more effort to manage them. Checking your blood sugar levels regularlyis a key part of taking good care of yourself and your baby. Your doctor willgive you target blood sugar levels. This will help you decrease therisk of birth defects, miscarriage and help your baby to have ahealthy weight at birth.

Some women can develop gestational diabetes. This doesn't mean you had diabetes before you conceived or that you will havediabetes after you give birth. Doctors usually test for gestational diabetes between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy. It's important to follow your doctor'sadvice regarding blood sugar levels during your pregnancy so you and your babyare healthy.

Gum Disease and Other DentalProblems

People with diabetes are more likely to have problems with their teethand gums if their blood sugar is not managed. Sore, swollen and red gums that bleedwhen you brush your teeth are signs of a dental problem called gingivitis.Another problem, called periodontitis, happens when your gums shrink or pullaway from your teeth. You can prevent these problems by keeping your bloodsugar levels as close to normal as possible. Brush your teeth at least twicea day. Floss once a day. Keep dentures clean. See the dentisttwice a year for a dental examination and cleaning.

Heart Disease and Stroke

Having diabetes means thatyou are more likely to develop heart disease. You also have a greater chance of aheart attack or a stroke if your diabetes is not managed. People with diabetes aremore likely to have certain conditions, such as or high blood pressure or high cholesterol. These conditions can increase the chances of having heart disease or a stroke. You can protect your heart and health by managing yourblood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. If you smoke, you should quit. 

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