High blood sugar levels can cause head-to-toe diabetes complications. Many of us know the complications that type 2 diabetes can add to our lives, but here are some cold, hard truths about Type 2 diabetes you may not know…
People with diabetes don’t have as much saliva, which can lead to dry mouth and a greater risk of cavities and gum disease.
People with type 2 diabetes are more likely to get urinary tract infections than people without diabetes. Those infections are also likely to be more severe and have worse outcomes, including the chance that they’ll lead to hospitalization, according to a study published in 2015 in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity. Sugar in the urine becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Diabetes also contributes to nerve damage in the bladder, which can allow urine to pool—and bacteria to grow. Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics.
Diabetes in both men and women can detract from intimacy. According to figures from Joslin Diabetes Center, more than 50 percent of men with type 2 diabetes experience erectile dysfunction; about 30 percent of men whose diabetes is well controlled do. “An erection requires good, healthy blood vessels, which get damaged in diabetes patients. About 35 percent of women with diabetes may experience sexual dysfunction, including lack of desire, pain or discomfort, and inability to orgasm. High blood sugar can damage the blood vessels and nerves that make intercourse enjoyable, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Numerous studies suggest a link between type 2 diabetes and an increased risk of cognitive issues, including dementia. One study published in 2013 in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation found that people with diabetes were up to 73 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who didn’t have diabetes. Insulin may play a part in memory and learning. Diabetes can also damage blood vessels in the brain, which can affect blood flow and nutrient delivery to cells and contribute to a condition known as vascular dementia. Rates of depression are two to three times higher in people with diabetes than in those without the disease.
Diabetes can affect the function of the vagus nerve, which controls how food moves through your digestive tract, according to the American Diabetes Association. When this nerve doesn’t work properly, food takes longer to leave your stomach, which can lead to a host of uncomfortable type 2 diabetes complications, such as heartburn, nausea, and vomiting, bloating, feeling full after meals, and lack of appetite.
In the short term, fluctuations in glucose levels can cause the lens of the eye to swell, which can make your vision blurry. However, over time, diabetes raises the risk of far more serious problems, including a cluster of issues known as diabetic eye disease: diabetic retinopathy (damage to blood vessels in the back of the eye); cataracts (clouding of the lens); and glaucoma (fluid in the eye that damages the optic nerve and causes vision loss). Nerves in the ear can be damaged in people with diabetes, which can lead to ringing, or tinnitus.
Type 2 diabetes complications often include foot problems. Damaged nerves in the feet can cause you to lose sensation in your feet, so you’re less likely to feel pain, heat, cold—or, say, a blister from a new shoe. Since you can’t feel these early warning signs, feet can more easily become infected; what’s more, high levels of glucose in the blood and impaired blood vessel scan make the infections slower to heal. (In very severe cases, bad infections just keep getting worse, causing skin tissue to die. This is what leads to the need for amputations).
Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable by taking several simple steps: keeping weight under control, exercising more, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking.
Although there’s no cure for type 2 diabetes, studies show it’s possible for some people to reverse it. Through diet changes and weight loss, you may be able to reach and hold normal blood sugar levels without medication. This doesn’t mean you’re completely cured. Type 2 diabetes is an ongoing disease.
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