How Does Diabetes Affect Your Body?

How does diabetes affect your body?
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It may surprise you to know how much diabetes affects every organ in your body. These lead to the signs and symptoms that guide the diagnosis of diabetes. In this article, we dive deep into each organ system and determine how high blood sugar can disrupt their normal functions. 

How does diabetes affect different functions in the body? 

1. Immunity 

Uncontrolled sugar levels weaken your immune system and increase your risk of developing infections that are difficult to treat.

Studies show that diabetes causes the walls of the blood vessels to thicken by depositing cholesterol plaques. As the blood vessels narrow and harden, blood flow slows down and leads to decreased nutrients to various body parts, which delays wound healing.

High blood sugar levels also slow down the production of defense cells like neutrophils in the bone marrow and impair the cell’s ability to fight against infections.

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2. Digestion 

People with diabetes often complain of digestive issues like acid reflux (GERD). Acidity can also cause chest pain and difficulty in swallowing.

Although obesity is a leading cause of GERD, high blood sugar levels also damage the nerves along the digestive tract, causing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms like constipation and diarrhea. This is also called Diabetes Enteroneuropathy. 

This damage also interferes with gastric emptying, causing a condition called gastroparesis. The stomach cannot normally empty itself of food, leading to nausea, vomiting, abdominal bloating and pain, and weight loss. Data shows that about 5%of people with type 1 diabetes experience gastroparesis versus about 1%of people with type 2 diabetes. 

3. Nerves 

As blood sugar rises, it damages the conduction of sensations along the nerves. This interferes with the messages and stimuli that the body sends or receives and is called diabetic neuropathy.

a. Peripheral nerve damage manifests as “pins and needles” numbness, weakness, or tingling in your hands, legs, and feet. Many describe the feeling of wearing socks or gloves when they aren’t.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Pain or increased sensitivity, especially at night.
  • Serious foot problems include ulcers, infections, and bone and joint pain.

Due to decreased sensations, people with diabetes may not notice long-standing infections, ulcers, or wounds. As a result, they become worse, are prone to infections, and don’t heal well. Severe complications could even lead to amputation. 

b. Proximal nerve damage affects nerves in the thighs, hips, buttocks, legs, and the stomach and chest area. 

Symptoms may include:

  • Severe pain in the hip and thigh or buttock.
  • Trouble getting up from a sitting position.
  • Severe stomach pain.

c. Focal nerve damage affects single nerves in the hand, head, torso, or leg. 

Over time, diabetes can cause damage to the small blood vessels and nerves in the inner ear, leading to hearing loss. People with diabetes have a higher rate of hearing loss than those with normal glucose levels. 

When the nerves and vessels in the eyes are affected, it leads to blurred vision, eye pain, double vision, or vision loss, known as  Diabetic retinopathy (DR)

Sexual Health and Fertility 

Both men and women experience the effects of diabetes on their sexual and reproductive health. For example, lowered sex drives affect a couple’s chances of conceiving a baby and their intimacy. 

1. Sexual health in women 

Studies show that in comparison to those without, women with type 2 diabetes experience symptoms of sexual dysfunction.

When diabetes is not well-controlled, it causes irregular or absent menstrual cycles and an increased risk of genital and urinary infections. 

2. Sexual health in men 

More than 50% of men with type 1 and 2 diabetes have erectile dysfunction. High blood sugar levels cause nerve damage, affecting their ability to get and maintain an erection, making sexual intercourse difficult. Men also get repeated urinary and genital tract infections.

Mental health 

People with diabetes are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. For example, studies show that people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from depression or live with eating disorders. 

 33% to 50%  also experience diabetes distress. Dealing with a chronic condition like diabetes is a roller coaster ride. With every setback, people often feel discouraged and frustrated dealing with their daily challenges. 

How does diabetes affect different organs in the body? 

1. Heart 

People with diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease, as they are also more likely to have risk factors like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, increasing their chances of having a heart attack or a stroke.

2. Kidneys 

High blood glucose damages the small blood vessels in the kidney, disrupting its function. As a result, 1 out of 3 adults with diabetes has kidney disease, also called diabetic nephropathy. 

3. Pancreas

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are closely related to the function of the pancreas. 

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system permanently damages the pancreas by attacking the beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas.  About 5 to 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1, diagnosed during childhood or early adulthood. 

In type 2 diabetes, the body no longer uses insulin well, so the blood glucose levels become too high or too low. The pancreas produces insulin, but often, it is not enough. The combination of insulin deficiency and ineffective use of insulin (insulin resistance) leads to the symptoms of diabetes. 

4. Oral cavity

People with diabetes notice symptoms that affect their mouth, teeth, and tongue. 

  • Uncontrolled sugar levels decrease the flow of saliva, which causes dry mouth, leading to soreness, ulcers, infections, and tooth decay.
  • Gum inflammation (gingivitis) and periodontitis become challenging to treat. 
  • Oral tissues heal poorly after oral surgery or other dental procedures 
  • Fungal strains, like thrush, thrive on the high glucose levels in the saliva of people with uncontrolled diabetes. This causes a burning sensation in the mouth or tongue. 

5. Hair 

People with type 1 diabetes are more likely to develop Alopecia areata, where the immune system begins to attack healthy hair follicles, causing hair loss. 

However, high blood sugar levels cause hair thinning and fragility and decrease the speed of hair growth as the supply of blood and nutrients to the hair follicles also reduces. 

6. Nails

Some people with diabetes notice that their nails turn yellow, due to the breakdown of sugar affecting the collagen in the nails. They also experience nail infections, like a fungal infection called onychomycosis, which affects the toenails, making them yellow, misshapen, and brittle. 

7. Skin 

The most common symptom of high blood sugar is itchy and dry skin due to poor blood circulation. However, there are specific skin conditions that are also associated with diabetes. 

  • Small raised solid bumps that look like pimples that slowly turn into yellow, reddish, or brown patches of swollen and hard skin. The surrounding skin has a shiny porcelain-like appearance. 
  • Large blisters that form on the hands, feet, legs, or forearms and resemble blisters after a burn. 
  • Spots and lines on the skin of the shins, arms, thighs, trunk, or other body areas.
  • Small yellowish, tender, and itchy pimples on the buttocks, thighs, elbows, or backs of the knees. 


Diabetes affects nearly every organ in the body and disrupts normal functioning, causing many symptoms. People with diabetes struggle to control these symptoms by maintaining their sugar levels. 


With the many signs, symptoms, and complications that point toward uncontrolled sugar levels, people with diabetes must keep their glucose levels in check by sticking to their treatment goals. 

Here is where Fitterfly comes in! Our programs help you make behavioral changes that last a lifetime to break free from the chains of metabolic disorders like diabetes. 

This is why Fitterfly has launched India’s 1st Metabolic Health Challenge called Metamorphosis. You can find out more about our smart, personalized, clinically validated & digitally led 90-day programs linked here –

- By Fitterfly Health-Team
No more stress while managing diabetes

Don’t struggle alone & get the expert care you deserve

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