How Does Diabetes Affect the Body?

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Diabetes affects the body in a variety of ways, including causing heart problems, stroke, nerve damage, blurry vision and kidney failure. Consult a doctor to discuss the repercussions of excess sugar in the bloodstream caused by diabetes with information from a family nurse practitioner in this free video on diabetes effects.

Part of the Video Series: Diabetes Symptoms & Treatments
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Video Transcript

How does diabetes affect the body? Hi, I'm Amy Bull, Professor and Family Nurse Practitioner at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. Diabetes affects the entire body. We mostly think of diabetes as a sugar disorder, which is partially true, but it's also a blood vessel disorder, and there's not anywhere in the body that isn't affected by blood vessels. So let's start at the beginning. In the patient with diabetes, abnormally high levels of glucose or sugar circulate throughout the bloodstream. This causes multiple symptoms, which can progress over time and cause complications. You may be surprised to find out that the number one cause of death in the diabetic patient is actually heart attack, followed closely by stroke. When we talk about diabetes, we talk about a sugar problem, but we forget to talk about the blood vessel problem. Abnormally high sugar in the blood irritates the blood vessels, and makes damage very possible and actually very likely to happen. Besides the blood vessels, the nerves in the body are attacked by the high sugar, and these can cause symptoms such as numbness or tingling in the feet, and eventual loss of sensation in the feet, so that you might step on a nail, or some small object and not realize that you've been injured. And then there's the consequence of the wound won't heal, and this again is because of the high blood sugar. Another possibility that may happen is blurry vision, or loss of vision, and this is due to the small blood vessels that go to the eye, that are irritated by high blood sugars. Another area that diabetes affects are the kidneys. The kidneys are affected again by high sugar in the circulation. This can lead to early renal failure and possibly even end up with the patient needing dialysis. If you have diabetes, make sure that you are getting regular checkups with your health care provider, and we recommend seeing you at least three or four times a year to help prevent these complications.

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