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How it harms the body, head to toe. See for yourself.
reviewed 11/7/2019

How diabetes damages the body

Diabetes can take a toll on health.

The good news: People can avoid or delay many of the harmful effects of diabetes by managing their blood sugar, blood pressure and other conditions.

The risks are real.

See the damage done head to toe.

Brain

People with diabetes often have high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke.

Eyes

Over time, high blood pressure and high glucose levels can damage the blood vessels in the eyes. This eye disease (called diabetic retinopathy) can lead to blindness.

Mouth

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to mouth problems like infection and gum disease.

Heart

People with diabetes are at higher risk for heart disease, which can cause heart attack and heart failure.

Digestive tract

Diabetes-related nerve damage can cause sluggish digestion. This can lead to pain, nausea and vomiting, and affect blood sugar levels.

Kidneys

Over time, diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the kidneys. This can cause kidney disease.

Liver

People with diabetes have a tendency toward fatty liver disease. This raises the risk for cirrhosis and liver failure.

Sexual function

For men, nerve and blood vessel damage can lead to erectile dysfunction. In women, diabetes can contribute to vaginal dryness and reduced pleasure.

Legs

Poor circulation can lead to peripheral arterial disease, which slows wound healing and raises the risk for foot ulcers, infection and amputation.

Feet

Nerve damage can lead to pain or numbness that makes it hard to feel blisters or cuts. Because diabetes can impair blood flow, these wounds may heal slowly or become infected.

PROTECT YOUR BODY, PROTECT YOUR HEALTH

Get regular checkups to avoid or delay complications of diabetes.

WHAT TESTS DO I NEED?

Sources: American Diabetes Association; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; UpToDate

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