1. Kidney Damage
Diabetes can also damage your kidneys and affect their ability to filter waste products from your blood. If your doctor detects microalbuminuria, or elevated amounts of protein in your urine, it could be a sign that your kidneys aren’t functioning properly.
Kidney disease related to diabetes is called diabetic nephropathy. This condition doesn’t show symptoms until its later stages. If you have diabetes, your doctor will evaluate you for nephropathy to help prevent irreversible kidney damage or kidney failure.
2. Effects On The Nerves
The effects of diabetes on the nerves can be serious as the nerves are involved in so many of our bodily functions, from movement and digestion through to sex and reproduction.
The presence of nerve damage (neuropathy) is commonly noticed by:
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Lack of arousal in the penis or clitoris
- Excessive sweating
- Diagnosis of delayed stomach emptying
Treatments for neuropathy concentrates on reducing pain but medication such blood pressure lowering drugs may also be prescribed to help prevent development of the condition.
3. Effect On Digestion
Diabetes can affect digestion in a number of ways. If diabetes has caused nerve damage, this can lead to nausea, constipation or diarrhoea.
An alternative cause of disturbed digestion can be the result of diabetes medication.
Some type 2 diabetes medications for instance are prone to causing digestive issues, although these tend to settle down after the body gets used to them.
4. Eye Disease
Diabetes-related eye problems include:
Retinopathy – with retinopathy, the blood vessels in the retina become damaged which eventually affects your vision. Retinopathy has various stages. In its early stages, there are usually no symptoms, so having a full diabetes eye check is essential to detect it early. Regular eye checks help detect any changes and allow for early treatment where needed to prevent further damage.
macular Oedema – the macula is part of the retina and helps you to see things clearly. Swelling of this area can happen when the blood vessels in the retina are damaged, causing fluid to build up. This can lead to the macula being damaged and vision may become blurry. Treatment is available. Early detection is important
Cataracts – the lens of the eye becomes cloudy and can cause vision to become cloudy, distorted or sensitive to glare. People with diabetes can develop cataracts at an earlier age than usual
Glaucoma – the pressure of the fluid within the eye builds up to a higher level than is healthy. This pressure can damage the eye over time. Glaucoma occurs in people with and without diabetes, but is more common in people with diabetes.
While most people who have damage to the eyes have no symptoms in the earlier stages, there are certain symptoms that may occur and these need urgent review. If you have flashes of light, floaters, blots and dots or part of your vision missing, see your doctor immediately.
5. Foot Problems
The feet of someone with diabetes are at risk of damage when the blood supply in both large and small blood vessels is reduced. Nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy) often results and problems to the structure of the foot can also occur – for example, clawed toes.
Reduced blood supply and nerve function can delay healing, increase the risk of infection, reduce feeling in the feet, and lead to ulcers and structural foot problems.
Look after your feet by:
- Seeing a podiatrist at least once a year. They will assess the health of your feet by checking the blood supply and nerve function and looking for changes in the structure of your feet
- Checking your feet every day (get someone to help you if you are unable to check them yourself). Look for cuts, blisters calluses, corns, tinea (especially between the toes) and any changes you notice. If treated early and without delay, you can help prevent complications occurring
- Using a moisturiser (such as sorbolene), especially if you have areas of dry, rough or cracked skin on your feet and heels – this can help keep your feet healthy
- Protecting your feet by wearing comfortable, supportive shoes that fit well.
6. Skin Problems
People with diabetes may experience very dry skin due to damage to the small blood vessels and nerves. A common problem for people with diabetes is very dry skin on the feet.
There are also other skin conditions related to diabetes. High blood glucose levels over time can affect the health of the skin. The skin acts as a barrier to protect our bodies from infection so it is important to keep the skin as healthy as possible. If the skin becomes dry, it can lead to cracks and possibly infections.
To reduce the risk of skin problems:
- Keep your blood glucose and HbA1c within recommended ranges to reduce the risk of skin infections.
- Wear gloves when you use household cleaners and solvents.
- Avoid very hot baths and showers.
- Do not have your feet too close to heaters, especially if you have peripheral neuropathy, as you may not be able to feel the intensity of the heat.
- Use a cream or lotion on your skin after bathing, preferably one that is not perfumed. Use non-scented soaps or soap alternatives.
- If you notice you have a skin problem, see your doctor.
7. Wounds And Infections
Poor circulation affects the body’s ability to heal when there is a wound or an infection. This is due to a low supply of blood, oxygen, and nutrients.
A person with diabetes should check their skin regularly for wounds and see their doctor if they have any signs of an infection, including redness, swelling, or fever.