(800) 973-1540

Other diabetes-related complications patients need to be aware of

Chronic Diabetes Complications: Page 3

By , Caring.com senior editor
100% helpful

6. Kidney disease

What it is: High blood sugar and high blood pressure can damage the kidneys and lead to a disease known as nephropathy, in which protein leaks out of damaged kidneys into the urine. As a result, the kidneys can no longer remove waste and extra fluids from the blood.

What it does: Left untreated, kidney disease can cause kidney failure, known as end-stage renal disease. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, and a person with this condition needs long-term dialysis (in which a machine eliminates waste from the blood) or a kidney transplant.

How to prevent it: Keeping blood pressure and blood glucose under control is key, whether through lifestyle changes, medications, or both. Protein in the urine is often the first sign of nephropathy, so your friend or relative should be checked annually for this condition; early intervention with medication may help protect the kidneys from further damage.

7. Gum disease

What it is: Gingivitis is a gum condition characterized by inflammation and bleeding. Left unchecked, this ailment can lead to the more serious gum disorder known as periodontal disease.

What it does: Almost one-third of people with diabetes have severe periodontal disease, which can weaken the gums so much that they can no longer support teeth.

How to prevent it: The person you're caring for needs to brush at least twice a day, floss once a day, and make sure she sees a dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings. She may be advised to go more often if she already has gum disease.

8. Eye disorders

What they are: Several eye conditions are more frequent in people with diabetes, including glaucoma, an increase in fluid pressure inside the eye; retinopathy, damage to the small blood vessels in the retina; cataracts, a clouding of the lens of the eye; and macular degeneration, damage to the part of the retina responsible for central vision.

What they do: Warning signs of eye trouble include blurred vision, sudden loss of vision, black spots, cobwebs or flashing lights, redness, pain, or pressure in the eye. To avoid any permanent vision loss, you or the patient should call her doctor if she experiences any of these symptoms. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in adults.

How to prevent them: The patient should have an annual eye exam to catch problems before they begin or treat them before they progress. If she has poorly controlled diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or kidney disease, she may need to see an eye specialist more often.

9. Erectile dysfunction

What it is: Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, refers to the inability to get or maintain an erection during sexual activity.

What it does: Impotence interferes with sexual pleasure. Men with diabetes are twice as likely to experience this dilemma as men without the disease.

How to prevent it: As with all these disorders, keeping blood sugar within the target range is key. Erectile dysfunction can be a side effect of some diabetes medications; the patient should discuss this with his doctor. Depression, stress, or anxiety can contribute to impotence; he may want to seek professional help for these conditions. Reducing alcohol intake and stopping smoking are also highly recommended.

10. Bladder and vaginal infections

What they are: Cystitis, an inflammation of the bladder that's usually caused by a bacterial infection, and yeast infections, a fungal infection of the vagina, can become recurrent problems if the person you're caring for has a blood glucose level that's higher than recommended.

What they do: Elevated blood sugar levels provide an excellent environment for bacteria and yeast to grow, causing these uncomfortable, even painful, conditions to thrive.

How to prevent them: Glucose control is key. Other self-care measures that may help include drinking enough water, urinating whenever there's an urge to go and emptying the bladder completely, avoiding scented personal hygiene products, and wiping from front to back after using the toilet.