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April 2023

Have Diabetes? Watch for These Lesser-Known Complications

You have regular eye exams. You get a foot checkup at every healthcare provider visit. But if you have diabetes, there are other health concerns you may face.

The good news? You can lower your risk of developing complications by keeping your blood sugar under control. And there’s more—you can take steps to improve your overall health and prevent other issues from taking root. Start with these tips.

Complication: Hearing loss

Your inner ear has small blood vessels and nerves that convert vibrations into signals your brain perceives as sound. High blood glucose can damage these structures, hampering your hearing. 

Prevent it: Avoid causes of hearing loss, such as loud noises, and have your hearing checked every year.

Complication: Urinary tract infections

Higher blood glucose, damage to the kidneys, and nerve issues that impair bladder function combine to make UTIs more common, and serious, in people with diabetes.

Prevent it: Drink plenty of water, and don’t wait until your bladder is full to empty it.

Complication: Sexual setbacks

Diabetes can affect men’s testosterone levels, contributing to erectile dysfunction. Women, too, can develop dryness and other problems that make sex less enjoyable or even painful.

Prevent it: It’s important to talk openly with your healthcare provider about any sexual concerns. Some people may find that lubricants, prescription pills, or other treatments help.

Complication: Dental dilemmas

Sugar isn’t just in your blood—it also shows up in your saliva. Bacteria in plaque feed on it, causing cavities, decay, and gum disease. You may also have dry mouth, bleeding gums, and slow-healing infections.

Prevent it: Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss at least once a day, and make regular dental visits.

Complication: Gastrointestinal issues

Muscles in your gut move food through your digestive system. But for some people with diabetes, nerve damage short-circuits this process. Your stomach may have trouble emptying, leaving you bloated, uncomfortable, or malnourished.

Prevent it: Try to eat more often and make each meal smaller. Drink plenty of water. Avoid alcohol and carbonated beverages.

Complication: Cognitive decline

People with diabetes are at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Experts believe inflammation and damaged blood vessels in the brain may play a role.

Prevent it: The same steps that keep your body healthy also benefit your mind. These include regular exercise, a balanced diet, and plenty of sleep.




Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2022
© 2000-2023 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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