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How does diabetes affect your body?

Your diabetes care team may seem like they are nagging you to keep your condition well managed, but there's good reason for keeping your test results within target ranges: you'll feel better, and help to avoid damaging complications as a side effect of diabetes.

Diabetes and the high blood sugar it can cause can affect nearly every organ in your body, including:

Heart and blood vessels - Heart disease and blood vessel disease are common problems for many people who don’t have their diabetes under control. This increases the risk of having a stroke or heart attack. Blood vessel damage or nerve damage also risks leg and foot amputations.

Eyes - Vision loss or eyesight being affected can be a side-effect of diabetes over time. That's why the NHS arranges special examinations of the back of the eyes every year for people with diabetes to check for signs of diabetic retinopathy.

Kidney disease - Diabetes can affect the kidneys over time. You might not notice any symptoms to begin with due to diabetes-related kidney disease, but it can cause swelling of the legs and feet. As well as keeping diabetes under control, having blood pressure in a healthy range is also important for your kidneys.

Nerves - Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage your nerves and this can cause peripheral diabetic neuropathy with pain and burning, or a loss of feeling in your feet. This may begin with the toes and spread to hands and other parts of the body. Nerve problems can also cause erectile dysfunction in men, digestive issues ( gastroparesis), bladder problems, fainting or a lack of awareness of low blood sugar levels (hypos).

Teeth and gums - Diabetes increases your risk of gum disease, making them red, swollen and more likely to bleed. Make sure your dentist knows about your diabetes and how well it is controlled.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on October 23, 2017

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