Health Library

Categories > Diabetes > Living with diabetes

The impact of diabetes

Diabetes affects several bodily functions in addition to metabolism, the process of turning food into energy. Because the condition can cause a variety of complications, including the ones listed below, it’s important to report any symptoms to your physician.

• Eye problems. Diabetic retinopathy, or damage to blood vessels in the retina, can lead to blindness. Warning signs include blurred vision that lasts more than a day; loss of vision in either eye; and spots, lines or flashing lights in your field of vision. It’s important for people with diabetes to have their eyes examined by an ophthalmologist once a year.

People with diabetes also are twice as likely to develop cataracts and glaucoma.

• Nervous-system damage. A condition known as diabetic neuropathy causes the nerves to become progressively less sensitive. Most commonly affected are the long nerves running from the spine to the fingers and toes. Neuropathy can also affect the nerves that control bladder function, digestion and blood pressure, especially if the person has had diabetes for some years.

• Kidney disease. People who have had diabetes for a number of years are at higher risk for kidney disease, which can affect other organs, especially the heart. Water retention may be a sign of kidney disease.