How Diabetes Affects the Body
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects how the body utilizes glucose. Glucose is the body’s primary energy source and is obtained from the food we consume. Diabetes is caused by an excess of sugar, in the form of glucose, in the blood. These elevated blood sugar levels result from insulin resistance in the cells. This indicates that they are unable to absorb the necessary glucose. High sugar levels may harm your heart, blood vessels, eyes, nerves, and kidneys over time.
Diabetes is classified into two types: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the pancreas no longer manufactures insulin. Insulin is required to assist the body in using glucose for energy. Type 1 diabetes has no known cure. The most prevalent kind of diabetes is type 2 diabetes, which is characterized by poor dietary and lifestyle choices.
Diabetes may lead to heart disease, stroke, blindness, renal failure, and amputations, among other problems. It’s important to understand how diabetes affects various body components so you can take action to avoid or postpone consequences.
How does diabetes affect the heart?
Diabetes is one of the primary causes of heart disease and may have significant consequences for your heart. Diabetics are at a substantially higher risk of having heart disease than non-diabetics. Furthermore, diabetes increases your chances of developing cardiac issues. High blood sugar levels harm the arteries that carry blood to the heart, making them more prone to plaque buildup and blockages. This may result in a heart attack or stroke, which can lead to death! (1)
Diabetes may also have an impact on the body by creating excessive blood pressure. This puts additional pressure on the heart and may result in heart failure (2). Abnormalities in the heart’s electrical system are frequent in diabetics and may cause irregular heartbeats (3). Arrhythmia is the medical word for this. Arrhythmias are a significant risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, both of which may be deadly. Another risk factor for stroke is high cholesterol. The bad news is that diabetes contributes to high cholesterol (4). So it is critical to monitor your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, get tested on a regular basis, and make sure you are eating a balanced diet and taking the appropriate medications to keep these life-threatening conditions under control.
Unfortunately, diabetes is a significant cause of heart failure, so there is additional bad news for the heart (4). This indicates that the heart is unable to pump enough blood to fulfill the body’s requirements. Heart failure may be very debilitating, resulting in fluid buildup in the legs and lungs. This may make it difficult to breathe and can be dangerous if not detected early.
How does diabetes affect the brain?
Diabetes may have major consequences for the brain. The brain requires a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients. It reaches them via the blood vessels. Diabetes may severely damage blood vessels, reducing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Parts of the brain will incur damage and perish if they are not there. This has the potential to result in memory loss and dementia (5). The brain requires and consumes more glucose than any other organ in the body (6). As a result, the brain will struggle to operate in the event of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. This well-known type 1 diabetes consequence might lead us to learn more slowly (7).
Diabetes is a well-known inflammatory factor (8). The brain is especially vulnerable to this, which may result in cognitive issues, poor attention, and memory loss (9).
Nervous tissue makes up a major amount of the brain (10). Diabetes and high blood sugar levels may harm the nerves that transmit messages from the brain to the rest of the body. This may lead to mobility and coordination issues (11).
Insulin resistance develops in the liver and muscle cells as a result of diabetes. Insulin resistance in brain cells may result in dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease (12). This is why, in the scientific and medical communities, Alzheimer’s disease is now referred to as “type 3 diabetes” (13).
How does diabetes affect the nervous system?
Diabetes-related elevated blood sugar levels may harm the nerves that transmit information from the brain to the body. Diabetic neuropathy may produce a number of symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness (14). Diabetic neuropathy is classified into four types. Each kind affects distinct nerves in the body and might result in a variety of symptoms. The nerves in the legs, feet, arms, and hands are affected by peripheral neuropathy. It produces a tingling, numbness, and weakness. It may also cause painful ulcers and skin infections.
Autonomic neuropathy affects the nerves that govern autonomic processes such as blood pressure and heart rate (15). This may result in concerns such as irregular heartbeats and high blood pressure. Autonomic neuropathy also has an impact on the organs inside the body. This may impair bladder and bowel control, alter the sex organs, impair sexual function, and impair food transit through the digestive tract (11). Finally, autonomic neuropathy may impair the sensors that detect low blood sugar levels. This implies that the diabetic is unaware of the warning indications of low blood sugar, which may be harmful. These folks must wear a continuous blood sugar monitor that alerts them when their blood sugar levels go dangerously low (16).
The nerves in the torso are affected by proximal neuropathy. Hips, thighs, stomach, and chest are all included. Pain, weakness, and decreased movement are all symptoms of proximal neuropathy (11). Individual nerves are the most typically impacted by localized nerve injury. Focal nerve injury affects the eyes and face, causing double vision, difficulty focusing, and partial facial paralysis known as Bell’s Palsy (17).
Diabetic neuropathy is a major consequence of diabetes; therefore, it’s critical to control your blood sugar levels to avoid devastating nerve damage.
How does diabetes affect the eyes?
Diabetes may also cause major eye issues. Diabetes wreaks havoc on the blood vessels in the cells in the back of the eye that process visual information. These injured blood vessels might bleed and leak a watery fluid, producing visual distortion. Diabetic retinopathy may result in blindness in extreme situations. Diabetes retinopathy is the major cause of adult blindness, and early identification is critical for vision preservation.
Another frequent eye condition related to diabetes is cataracts (18). They are the leading cause of blindness and arise when the lens of the eye gets clouded, making it impossible to see properly. Another condition that diabetes may induce is glaucoma (19). It happens when the pressure within the eye rises, causing the optic nerve to be damaged. Glaucoma may potentially cause blindness if left untreated. Diabetes patients should have frequent eye exams so that any abnormalities may be discovered and addressed as soon as possible.
If you have diabetes, you must carefully and routinely check your blood sugar levels and take action to manage your diabetes. This includes eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and taking medications as directed. Working with your doctor, diabetes practitioner, and optician is also essential for efficiently managing your condition. Making efforts to be healthy is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your general health, and it may help you prevent some significant difficulties down the line.
- Diabetes, Heart Disease, & Stroke https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/heart-disease-stroke
- Blood pressure https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/blood-pressure
- Diabetes and Arrhythmias: Pathophysiology, Mechanisms and Therapeutic Outcomes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6275303/
- Diabetes and Your Heart https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-and-heart.htm
- The Effects of Diabetes on the Brain https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-and-your-brain.html
- Why Does the Brain Need So Much Power? https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-the-brain-need-s/
- The Effects of Type 1 Diabetes on Cognitive Performance: A meta-analysis https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article/28/3/726/27794/The-Effects-of-Type-1-Diabetes-on-Cognitive
- The Role of Inflammation in Diabetes: Current Concepts and Future Perspectives https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6523054/
- Impact of diabetes on cognitive function and brain structure https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4837888/
- Nervous Tissue https://training.seer.cancer.gov/anatomy/cells_tissues_membranes/tissues/nervous.html
- Diabetes and Nerve Damage https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-nerve-damage.html
- Insulin Resistance in Brain and Possible Therapeutic Approaches https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Cetinkalp-Sevki/publication/236579793_Insulin_Resistance_in_Brain_and_Possible_Therapeutic_Approaches/links/5575eac708ae7521586c28a8/Insulin-Resistance-in-Brain-and-Possible-Therapeutic-Approaches.pdf
- Is Alzheimer’s disease a Type 3 Diabetes? A critical appraisal https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0925443916302150
- Hyperglycemia Induces Cellular Hypoxia through Production of Mitochondrial ROS Followed by Suppression of Aquaporin-1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4934928/
- Autonomic Neuropathy https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/nerve-damage-diabetic-neuropathies/autonomic-neuropathy
- Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose) https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/medication-treatments/blood-glucose-testing-and-control/hypoglycemia
- Diabetic Neuropathy https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/diabetes/diabetic-neuropathy-nerve-problems
- Cataract in diabetes mellitus https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6422859/
- Diabetes Mellitus as a Risk Factor for Open-Angle Glaucoma: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0102972