Complications: How Diabetes Can Affect the Body

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By : dLife Editors

With more than 80,000 people dying annually from diabetes and diabetes-related complications, the disease is ranked as the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.

However, as common and deadly as this disease can be, having good knowledge of how diabetes affects your body will go a long way to help you prevent complications from showing up.  The major cause of diabetes complications is lack of proper control of blood glucose levels.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?     

When diabetes is left uncontrolled or undiagnosed, it could manifest its effect through a wide range of noticeable signs and symptoms including:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased thirst
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent urination than usual
  • Numbness or pains in the hands, legs or feet

Does diabetes have long-term effects on the body?

The answer is yes. In addition to the noticeable symptoms of diabetes, this condition can also cause different long-term effects on the body.  Since diabetes affects nerves and blood vessels it, therefore, can affect other parts of the body, including the kidney, heart, eyes, brain, bones, and many more organs.

Certain parts of the body are more affected more than other parts by complications.  And, since it takes a considerably long time for the complications to develop, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle can help in keeping them at bay.

  • How does diabetes affect your heart?

There has been a strong link between diabetes and heart diseases. Having diabetes means you are more likely to develop heart diseases and have an increased chance of a heart attack and stroke.

In the long run, the blood vessels and the nerves controlling the blood vessels and the heart can be damaged as a result of the high blood glucose from diabetes. Your chances of developing heart disease tend to increase by how long you have diabetes.

Compared to people without diabetes, people with diabetes tend to develop heart disease at a younger age. The most common cause of death in adults living with diabetes is heart disease and stroke.

  • How does diabetes affect the kidney?

One of the organs of the body that also receives a big blow of the damaging effect of diabetes is the kidney, and the risk of developing a kidney disease as a result of diabetes is increased by factors like poor control of diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Effects of diabetes on the eyes

When diabetes is left uncontrolled for several years, one of its complications could be diabetic retinopathy. This condition of the eyes is caused by the swelling and leaking of the blood vessels in the back of the eyes – the retina.  Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is a great way to treat it. The best way to achieve this is to yearly attend a retinopathy screening appointment.

  • Effect on the nerves

Because the nerves are directly involved in a lot of our bodily functions, including movement, sex, digestion, and reproduction, the effect of diabetes on these nerves can be very serious.

The damaging effect of diabetes on the nerves is called neuropathy and can manifest as many signs and symptoms including erectile dysfunction, numbness or tingling in the feet, profuse sweating, etc.  Treating neuropathy often involves pain reduction.  Take a quiz on diabetic neuropathy here to test your knowledge.

  • How does it affect the gum and teeth?

Your saliva which is a fluid present in your mouth and makes the mouth wet is found to contain glucose. When there is uncontrolled diabetes, the high level of glucose in the saliva can be bad as they help grow harmful bacteria.

These bacteria combine with food to form a sticky, soft film known as plaque. Plaques in most times, cause tooth decay, cavities, gum disease and bad breath.  Learn more about diabetes and dental health here.

The long-term effect of uncontrolled diabetes is what results in diabetic complications. Therefore, they can be prevented if diabetes is diagnosed early enough and all effort is geared toward controlling the blood sugar level. Your body organs are vital to your health — to protect them from the damaging effect of diabetes by keeping your blood sugar level in a normal state. Learn more about diabetes complications with this slideshow.


1. Huo, X., Gao, L., Guo, L. (2016). Risk of non-fatal cardiovascular diseases in early-onset versus late-onset type 2 diabetes in China: a cross-sectional study. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. 2016;4(2):115–124

2. National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, Dec 22). National diabetes statistics report, 2014. Retrieved from

3. Diabetic Nephropathy – Kidney Disease. Retrieved from