10 Ways Type 2 Diabetes Can Affect Your Body

Feb 05, 2019

 

You Will Learn

  • Ten ways type 2 diabetes can affect your body and why, if left untreated, it cause serious consequences.
  • Action steps to prevent and reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes.  

 

1. Damage Your Vision  

Chronically elevated blood sugars associated with type 2 diabetes can cause several different types of vision impairment, ultimately leading to blindness. All eye complications related to diabetes can be prevented by early diagnosis and therapy. To avoid vision loss, it is important to get your eyes checked every year and lower your blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides to healthy levels.9  

 

2. Lose Your Sensation  

Diabetic neuropathy is characterized by numbness, tingling, burning, and sometimes shocking pain in your toes. Neuropathy can also occur in your fingers.  

Blood high in sugar is thicker and sticker than healthy blood. This kind of blood has a harder time flowing into the tiny blood vessels that supply nerves.  

When nerves are starved of healthy blood and exposed to blood with high sugar content, they are damaged and die, resulting in neuropathy.  

If left untreated, diabetic neuropathy will continue to travel up the leg, causing numbness in your ankle, calves, knees, and sometimes into the thigh.

The resultant lack in feeling can have a big impact on balance and increase fall risk in older adults.  

Neuropathy is also a concern for wound development because a person is less likely to feel a cut or injury, therefore less likely to notice it until it has advanced. Diabetic wounds are more difficult to heal, again due to poor blood flow and typically high blood sugar levels that impair wound healing. That is why individuals with diabetes, especially if blood sugars are not in a healthy range, are more likely to get amputations of their toes, feet, and legs than individuals without diabetes.  

 

3. Stress Your Heart  

Extra sugar in your blood increases the production of VLDL (very low density lipoprotein). This is the bad kind of cholesterol that causes plaque to build up on the walls of your blood vessels. These plaques can then either rupture or cause a total blockage leading to cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and strokes.3 Exercise and reducing the level of saturated fat and sugar in your diet will help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.  

 

4. Increase Your Risk of Dementia  

High levels of blood sugar can damage the blood vessels in your brain which in turn reduces their ability to “feed” the nerves in your brain. Without blood flow those nerves die, leading to vascular dementia and/or Alzheimer’s Disease.2  

 

5. Hurt Your Love Life  

Excess sugar in the blood damages the nerves and blood vessels that play a crucial role in making intercourse enjoyable or even possible. Among other problems, men may experience erectile dysfunction due to blood vessel damage. Women may have vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, or reduced sensation in the genital area.6  

 

6. Contribute to Digestive Problems  

The nerves that control internal body functions, like digestion are vulnerable to high blood sugar levels, too. High blood sugar can lead to gastroparesis, a condition where food in the stomach moves slowly to the small intestine or stops moving altogether, leading to nausea, vomiting, bloating, pain, and malabsorption of nutrients.7  

 

7. Damage Your Kidney Function  

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease. About 1 in 4 adults with diabetes has kidney disease.1  

The kidneys house tiny blood vessels that filter waste products from the blood. When blood sugar is persistently elevated, the filtering system has to work overtime to clear the excess sugar from the blood. Over many years, the filters become scarred and the kidneys no longer function properly. Increased protein levels in the urine is one of the first signs of trouble.  

Controlling blood sugar and blood pressure can preserve kidney function and prevent serious consequences like dialysis or transplantation.  

 

8. Cause Gum and Tooth Decay  

If your blood sugar levels are poorly controlled, you are more likely to develop serious gum disease and lose more teeth than someone without diabetes. Like all infections, serious gum disease may be a factor in causing blood sugar to rise and may make diabetes harder to control.

Diabetics are also more likely to get thrush, an infection caused by fungus that grows in the mouth, and dry mouth which can cause soreness, ulcers, infections, and cavities.5

 

9. Increase Bladder Dysfunction  

People with diabetes are at greater risk of urinary tract infections. Not only that, but when they do get infections, their problems are more severe. Diabetes also can damage the nerves that control bladder function. 

The resulting damage can lead to overactive bladder, difficulty controlling the sphincter muscles that help retain and release urine, or difficulty emptying the bladder.4  

 

10. Harm Your Skin  

The thicker and stickier blood of someone with chronically elevated blood sugars has a hard time flowing to the tiny capillaries in your skin. The lack of blood flow results in changes to the skin’s texture, appearance, and ability to heal. Skin issues can be among the first signs of diabetes.8  

 

Bottom Line  

Chronically elevated high blood sugars can wreck your health and damage every single system in your body. It is so much easier and cheaper to address high blood sugar when it starts than to deal with the financial, emotional, and social consequences of these long-term consequences down the road.  

 

Action Items  

  • Look at your food labels. Try to limit your added sugars to less than 25-35 grams per day. 
  • Get moving! Both aerobic and resistive exercise requires energy for your muscles, that means that sugar moves from your blood into your tissues, thus reducing your blood sugar.  

 

References  

1. Afkarian M, Zelnick LR, Hall YN, et.al. Clinical manifestations of kidney disease among US adults with diabetes. Journal of the American Medical Association.2016;316(6):602–610.

2. Ahtiluoto S, Polvikoski T, Peltonen M, et al. Diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Vascular Dementia. Neurology. Sep 2010;75(13):1195-1202. DOI:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181f4d7f8.

3. Almekinder E. “Diabetes and Cholesterol: What’s the Relationship?” com. Sept 15, 2018. www.thediabetescouncil.com/diabetes-and-cholesterol-what-is-the-relationship/.

4. Anderson B. Resolving Diabetes-Related Bladder Problems. Diabetes Self-Management. Updated Sept 11, 2015. www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/managing-diabetes/complications-prevention/resolving-diabetes-related-bladder-problems/. Accessed Feb 5, 2019.

5. American Diabetes Association. Diabetes and Oral Health. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/oral-health-and-hygiene/diabetes-and-oral-health.html. Accessed Feb 5, 2019.

6. Gandhi J, Dagur G, Warren, K et al. Effect of Diabetes Mellitus on Sexual Arousal and Intercourse. Translational Biomedicine. 2016;7(2). DOI: 10.21767/2172-0479.100057.

7. Intagliata N, Koch K, Curr L. Gastroparesis in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Prevalence, Etiology, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Gastroenterol Rep. 2007;9: 270. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11894-007-0030-3.

8. Santos-Longhurst, A and Gotter, A. Type 2 Diabetes and Skin Health. Healthline. Feb 5, 2016. healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/skin-problems#Diabetes-RelatedSkinConditions4. Accessed Feb 5, 2019.

9. Sayin N, Kara N, Pekel G. Ocular complications of diabetes mellitus. World J Diabetes. 2015;6(1):92-108. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4317321/.

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