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Complications From Diabetes - Topic Overview

A person is at risk for diabetes complications if blood sugar levels are often above a target range for a long period of time.

Whether complications develop also may be affected by:

Recommended Related to Diabetes

Medications to Treat Diabetic Nerve Pain

Diabetes is a lifelong companion. Sometimes a complication like diabetic nerve pain takes time to resolve, and you may want to try different treatments and medications before finding one that works for you. First, make sure you're doing the best job you can of controlling your blood sugar, exercising regularly, and keeping your weight normal. If you still have pain, numbness, or discomfort in your feet or hands (called peripheral neuropathy), you may need to turn to medications to soothe your nerve...

Read the Medications to Treat Diabetic Nerve Pain article > >

Keeping blood sugar at a target range lowers the risk for complications.

People who have diabetes are at risk for blood vessel and nerve damage. They can develop one or several complications.

Blood vessel damage

High blood sugar causes changes in hormones and cells that can damage blood vessels or nerves, or both. Damaged blood vessels are more likely to build up plaque, increasing the risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke. When large blood vessels are affected, complications are called macrovascular disease. Damage to small blood vessels can lead to loss of vision, kidney disease, and nerve problems throughout the body. When small blood vessels are affected, the condition is called microvascular disease.

  • Blockages in the heart or brain increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. When the large blood vessels in the legs are affected (peripheral arterial disease), blood circulation to the legs and feet is reduced, causing changes in skin color, decreased sensation, poor wound healing, and leg cramps.
  • Diabetic retinopathy refers to complications affecting the eyes.
  • Diabetic nephropathy affects the kidneys.

Nerve damage

Nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) can decrease or completely block the movement of nerve impulses or messages through organs, legs, arms, and other parts of the body. Nerve damage can affect your internal organs and your ability to feel pain when you are injured.

  • Diabetic autonomic neuropathy occurs when nerves that control involuntary functions—such as those of the heart, digestive tract, urinary tract, and sex organs—have been damaged.
  • Diabetic peripheral neuropathy occurs when the nerves that detect sensation (including pain and position) become damaged. Peripheral neuropathy usually affects longer nerves first, for example, the nerves going to the legs and feet.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: August 01, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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    If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

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