The Not-So-Sweet Truth About Diabetes

doctor holding a stethoscope

While most people are aware of diabetes’ effects on blood sugar levels, there are other potentially life-threatening—and negative—side effects of this serious condition that often go unmentioned. Here are a few negative effects of diabetes and how you can combat them:

Heart disease and stroke

You might not realize it, but diabetes can increase your heart disease and stroke risk. High blood sugar levels can damage your blood vessels, making them more susceptible to narrowings and blockages. Diabetes can also cause hardening of the arteries, further increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

In addition, diabetes can lead to high blood pressure, another significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. If you have diabetes, controlling your blood sugar levels and monitoring your blood pressure closely is essential. You should also see your doctor regularly for checkups and reduce your risk factors for heart disease and stroke, such as quitting smoking and exercising regularly. Taking these precautions can help keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of developing severe cardiovascular problems.

Kidney damage

High blood sugar from diabetes can damage your kidneys. The filters in your kidneys become overloaded with sugar, leading to kidney disease. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure. When your kidneys are not functioning correctly, they cannot remove waste and extra fluid from your body. This can cause the waste to build up in your bloodstream and lead to serious health problems.

To prevent kidney damage from happening, it is important to control your blood sugar levels and visit your doctor regularly to monitor your kidney function. Taking these steps can help prevent or delay the onset of kidney damage.

Blindness and vision problems

a man staring at nowhere

Diabetes can cause two serious problems that can lead to blindness and vision problems. These are diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in the retina’s blood vessels, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye. The longer you have diabetes, the greater your risk of diabetic retinopathy. Glaucoma is a condition that damages your optic nerve. This nerve conducts images from your eye to your brain. Diabetes increases your risk of glaucoma.

If you have diabetes, it’s essential to have regular comprehensive dilated eye exams to detect and treat any vision problems early. Early treatment of diabetic retinopathy may prevent severe vision loss or even blindness. There is no cure for glaucoma, but early diagnosis and treatment can help slow or prevent vision loss from glaucoma.

Nerve damage (neuropathy)

If you have diabetes, your body isn’t able to process sugar the way it should. That means there’s too much sugar in your blood, which can damage the tiny blood vessels that supply your nerves with oxygen and nutrients. Over time, this damage can lead to nerve pain and numbness. This is called diabetic neuropathy.

There are different types of diabetic neuropathy, each with its own symptoms. For example, some people experience pain and numbness in their hands and feet, while others may have trouble digesting food or controlling their bladder. In severe cases, diabetic neuropathy can lead to paralysis or even death.

The best way to prevent diabetic neuropathy is to control your blood sugar levels. That means monitoring your sugar intake, exercising regularly, and taking medication as prescribed by your doctor. If you already have neuropathy, some treatments can help relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Tooth loss

Over time, diabetes can cause severe damage to your teeth and gums. The high sugar levels in your blood can lead to gum disease, which can cause your teeth to become loose and eventually fall out. In addition, diabetes can cause changes in the nerves and blood vessels that supply your teeth, making them more susceptible to infection and decay. To make matters worse, people with diabetes often experience dry mouth, increasing the risk of tooth loss.

Fortunately, you can take steps to protect your teeth and gums from the harmful effects of diabetes. Be sure to brush and floss regularly. If you already have tooth loss because of diabetes, you can still get your smile back by getting tooth replacement solutions. These tooth replacements are permanent and can restore your ability to eat, speak, and smile confidently. They can also improve your overall oral health and decrease the risk of gum disease and other complications. By understanding the potential impact of diabetes on your oral health, you can take steps to protect your teeth and gums.

Once again, diabetes is a serious chronic condition that can cause various health problems, including vision loss, nerve pain, Alzheimer’s disease, and tooth loss. So be sure to stay on top of your diabetes care and visit your doctor regularly for checkups.

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