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Diabetes Health Center

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How Does Diabetes Affect Your Body?

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It can take work to get your diabetes under control, but the results are worth it.

If you don't make the effort to get a handle on it, you could set yourself up for a host of complications. Diabetes can take a toll on nearly every organ in your body, including the:

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Hypoglycemia: How Low Can You Go?

If you have diabetes, you probably know the warning signs of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. "It's been described best as a little like the feeling you get when you're sliding on ice in a car: panic, rapid heart rate, [and] sort of a sense of doom," says John Buse, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, chief of the division of endocrinology, and executive associate dean for clinical research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. You also probably know that hypoglycemia...

Read the Hypoglycemia: How Low Can You Go? article > >

  • Heart and blood vessels
  • Eyes
  • Kidneys
  • Nerves
  • Gums and teeth

Heart and Blood Vessels

Heart disease and blood vessel disease are common problems for many people who don’t have their diabetes under control. You're at least twice as likely to have heart problems and strokes as people who don’t have the condition.

Blood vessel damage or nerve damage may also cause foot problems that, in rare cases, can lead to amputations. People with diabetes are ten times likelier to have their feet and legs removed than those without the disease.

Symptoms: You might not notice warning signs until you have a heart attack or stroke. Problems with large blood vessels in your legs can cause leg cramps, changes in skin color, and less sensation.

The good news: Many studies show that controlling your diabetes can help you avoid these problems, or stop them from getting worse if you have them.

Eyes

Diabetes is the leading cause of new vision loss among adults ages 20 to 74 in the U.S. It can lead to eye problems, some of which can cause blindness if not treated:

  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Diabetic retinopathy

Symptoms: Vision problems, sight loss, or pain in your eye if you have diabetes-related eye disease.

The good news: Studies show that regular eye exams and timely treatment of these kinds of problems could prevent up to 90% of diabetes-related blindness.

Kidney Disease

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure in adults in the U.S., accounting for almost half of new cases.

Symptoms: You might not notice any problems with early diabetes-related kidney disease. In later stages it can make your legs and feet swell.

The good news: Drugs that lower blood pressure (even if you don't have high blood pressure) can cut your risk of kidney failure by 33%.

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