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How Does Diabetes Affect Your Body?

Nerves

Over time, high blood sugar levels can harm your nerves. As many as 70% of people with diabetes get this type of damage.

  • Peripheral diabetic neuropathy can cause pain and burning or a loss of feeling in your feet. It usually starts with your toes. It can also affect your hands and other body parts.
  • Autonomic neuropathy stems from damage to the nerves that control your internal organs. Symptoms include sexual problems, digestive issues (a condition called gastroparesis), trouble sensing when your bladder is full, dizziness and fainting, or not knowing when your blood sugar is low.

The good news: You have many options to treat your pain. The doctor might prescribe an antidepressant, a medication that stops seizures (called an anticonvulsant).  He could also give you drugs that go on your skin, like creams or patches. He might suggest you use a device that stimulates your nerves called TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation).

Teeth

Having diabetes puts you at higher risk for gum disease.

Symptoms: Your gums might be red and swollen and bleed easily.

The good news: If you keep your blood sugar under control, visit your dentist regularly, and take good care of your teeth each day, you can avoid gum problems and tooth loss.

Take Charge of Your Condition

Some people have to make only small lifestyle changes to keep their blood sugar under control to reverse a diabetes complication. Others need medications to stop them from getting worse.

Treatment of complications focuses on slowing down the damage. That may include medication, surgery, or other options.

But the most important ways to slow diabetes complications are to keep your blood sugar levels under control, eat right, exercise, avoid smoking, and get high blood pressure and high cholesterol treated.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on March 24, 2015
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