What Are the Effects of Diabetes on Your Body?

June 29,2020 |
Female healthcare professional giving shot to young man

Over 100 million adults in the United States have diabetes or prediabetes and that number continues to grow.1 Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in the US and is one of the top three leading causes of death. While there are multiple different types of diabetes type 2 diabetes is responsible for close to 90% of all cases. The thing is, type 2 diabetes can be prevented, delayed, and even reversed when caught early. Unfortunately, many people aren’t aware of the warning signs and are too late. When this happens, you’ll start noticing the effects of diabetes on your body and will have to test your blood sugar regularly to make sure it’s stable. If it’s too high or too low, you’ll need to take insulin or eat specific foods to get it within a normal range. The same needs to be done when you’re diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which is considered an autoimmune disease. To make sure that you’re managing your diabetes properly, you need to fully understand it. In this article, we’ll go over the effects of diabetes on your body.

How Your Body Reacts to Diabetes

The most notable reaction that your body has to diabetes involves your blood sugar levels and insulin. When people think of diabetes, they immediately think of blood glucose monitors and insulin shots. What many people don’t realize is that there are a number of symptoms that occur due to destabilized blood sugar. To stay safe, make sure that you keep an eye out for any of these signs or symptoms and call 911 immediately if things progress and you need medical help.2  

  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Extreme Thirst
  • Visual Disturbance
  • Sweet-Smelling Breath
  • Fatigue or Lack of Energy
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Pancreas Malfunctions
  • High Ketones in Urine
  • Excessive Urination
  • Ketoacidosis
  • Nerve Damage
  • Dry, Cracked Skin
  • Foot Problems

People with diabetes are also at a higher risk for stroke, infection, and heart disease.2 To keep yourself safe, understand the signs of a stroke, know how to look out for infection, and learn the warning signals for a heart attack in both men and women.

The Effect of Diabetes on Your Body

While the above are common signs or symptoms of unstable blood sugar levels, there are a number of ways that diabetes affects your body and its corresponding systems.

Endocrine, Excretory, and Digestive Systems

Your endocrine system is responsible for the production and release of hormones throughout your body. People with diabetes can’t use their pancreas to produce sufficient insulin, so other hormones turn fat into energy.2 This process can lead to an imbalance of toxic chemicals in the blood stream—most notably diabetic ketoacidosis.2 Diabetic ketoacidosis is dangerous and can be life threatening when not treated quickly. Sweetly scented breath is a big indicator that you have diabetic ketoacidosis, so call your doctor immediately if you notice this or anything that feel “off” to you.

Over time, if diabetes isn’t managed well your kidneys can get damaged. When you have kidney damage, they become inefficient at filtering waste products and results in a diabetic nephropathy diagnosis.2 Unfortunately, symptoms don’t usually appear for this until it’s late in the stages of development, which is one of the reasons why it’s so important to manage your diabetes.

Another problem that involves your excretory and digestive systems is diabetic hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome (HHS). This is when you have dangerously high blood glucose levels without any ketones present, which can lead to extreme dehydration or even loss of consciousness.2 Additionally, diabetes can lead to gastroparesis, a condition that makes it hard for your stomach to completely empty.2 This can cause serious side effects and needs to be addressed immediately.

Circulatory System

Diabetes also impacts your circulatory system. When diabetes isn’t managed well, you run the risk of developing high blood pressure.2 High blood pressure in and of itself is dangerous, but when paired with diabetes your risk of heart disease goes up even more. Diabetes doubles your risk of heart disease and stroke, so make sure you incorporate regular exercise and a healthy diet into your lifestyle to lower your risk.2 If you smoke, quit—it’s just not worth it.

Damage to your circulatory system from diabetes is one of the reasons that many people experience problems with their feet. Poor circulation means blood flow to the extremities is limited or weakened, which can cause a number of problems on its own. For example, diabetic foot ulcers can be dangerous and need constant monitoring to avoid potentially life-threatening complications.

Integumentary System

The integumentary system is a fancy way of talking about your skin, however it’s not immune from the effects of diabetes. Your skin can become cracked and dry due to high blood sugar, which can increase your risk of skin infections when not properly cared for. A lot of people assume that they need to lather on the moisturizer, but when left on for too long it can create damp environments that breed fungi, bacteria, and yeast.2 If you suffer from dry or cracked skin from diabetes, make sure to use an absorbent lotion and check your skin regularly after application to make sure that it’s not causing problems.

If diabetes is unmanaged, your skin can succumb to a number of conditions that will require a dermatologist’s diagnosis and treatment. The most common skin conditions from diabetes are eruptive xanthomatosis, digital sclerosis, and diabetic dermopathy.2

Central Nervous System

In more serious conditions, diabetes can affect the central nervous system and create long-lasting nerve damage. Over time, this nerve damage increases your susceptibility to injury due to the inability to feel heat, cold, or even pain.2 When this happens, infection risk increases, and serious medical intervention needs to occur. Diabetic retinopathy affects the blood vessels in your eye and can damage your vision and eventually lead to blindness.2

Reproductive System

Finally, diabetes affects the reproductive system—primarily through the occurrence of gestational diabetes. If you already have diabetes and get pregnant or if you develop gestational diabetes while you’re pregnant, your risk of preeclampsia and eclampsia increase significantly and need to be monitored throughout fetal development.2 One of the best ways to reduce your chances of gestational diabetes is through a healthy diet and exercise, but if it happens it isn’t always a cause for concern. Through proper monitoring, you can avoid serious complications. Talk to your doctor, make a plan, and attend your prenatal meetings regularly.

The long-term impact of diabetes can be life-threatening if it’s left untreated or poorly managed. Diabetes affects virtually every part of your body—some more than others. This is why diabetes management is so important. If poorly managed, diabetic complications will arise and can cause varying effects that range from short-term to chronic. To make sure that you’re managing your managing your diabetes properly and taking care of your mental health, take note of any signs of diabetes distress and talk to a professional about how they can help. As long as you are conscious of your blood sugar levels and take the proper precautions to manage your diabetes in a healthy, proactive way, you’ll significantly reduce your risk of ever experiencing any of these side effects.


Having diabetes means that you need to take certain precautions and commit to a healthy diabetes management plan. Regardless of if you have type 1, type 2, gestational, or monogenic diabetes, taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you need to do. If you feel depressed or anxious, talk to a professional as soon as possible. If you need any blood glucose meters or continuous glucose monitoring devices, Byram Healthcare has you covered. We’ll work with your insurance provider and doctor to ensure you’re supported from start to finish, maximizing your coverage while minimizing out-of-pocket expenses. For more information and added support on diabetes management, sign up for Byram Healthcare’s Caring Touch At Home Program. We focus on providing exceptional customer service and top-of-the-line brand name products while lowering your overhead costs. The Caring Touch At Home Program combines convenience, affordability, and choice to deliver extensive service and support to everyone living with diabetes.

For added support, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Byram’s Diabetes Center of Excellence—a one source, total solution for diabetes care. Our Center of Excellence combines high quality products with clinical and educational research to help you better manage your condition, support all of your needs, and live a long, healthy life.


1 https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0718-diabetes-report.html

2 https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/effects-on-body#9