Over time, a prolonged exposure to high blood sugar can damage the nerves throughout the body — a condition called diabetic neuropathy. Some people may not have any symptoms of the damage, while others may notice numbness, tingling, or pain in the extremities. “At the beginning, [diabetic neuropathy] usually starts in the feet and then it progresses upward,” says Dr. Ovalle. Although most common in people who have had type 2 diabetes for 25 years or more, it can occur in people who have prediabetes as well. In some studies, almost 50 percent of unexplained peripheral neuropathy [in the extremities], whether painful or otherwise, turns out to be caused by prediabetes or diabetes, says Dr. Einhorn.
The notion is understandable. Blood sugar levels are high in diabetes, so a common idea has held that eating sugar somehow triggers the disease process. However, the major diabetes organizations take a different view. The American Diabetes Association1 and Diabetes UK2 have labelled this notion a “myth,” as has the Joslin Diabetes Center,3 which wrote, “Diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar.” These and other organizations have worked to educate people about the causes of diabetes and the role that foods play in the disease process.
Treatment of high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, which can contribute to circulation problems, can help prevent some of the complications of diabetes as well. A low dose of aspirin taken daily is recommended in people with risk factors for heart disease. All people with diabetes who are between 40 and 75 years are given a statin (a drug to decrease cholesterol levels) regardless of cholesterol levels. Younger people with an elevated risk of heart disease should also take a statin .
The levels of glucose in the blood vary normally throughout the day. They rise after a meal and return to pre-meal levels within about 2 hours after eating. Once the levels of glucose in the blood return to premeal levels, insulin production decreases. The variation in blood glucose levels is usually within a narrow range, about 70 to 110 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood in healthy people. If people eat a large amount of carbohydrates, the levels may increase more. People older than 65 years tend to have slightly higher levels, especially after eating.
After eating carbohydrates, the carbs break down into sugar, trigger the pancreas to produce insulin and are then stored in liver and muscles. However, there is a limit to the amount of sugar the liver and muscles can store. The easiest way to understand this is to think of your liver and muscles as small closets without much storage space. If sugar keeps coming in, the closet will quickly fill up.
Dr. Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, received a BA in anthropology from the University of Colorado, her doctorate of naturopathic medicine (ND) from Bastyr University, and a masters of public health (MPH) in health services research from the University of Washington. She completed her residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in ambulatory primary care and fellowship training at the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Washington.
Apart from these medications, treating diabetes effectively means taking a well-rounded approach: You’ll need to eat well, exercise, and manage stress, because all these factors can affect your blood sugar levels. Staying healthy with diabetes also requires caring for yourself — like protecting your feet, practicing oral hygiene, and tending to your mental health.
Diabetes mellitus is a public health problem around the world. In 1980, 108 million adults worldwide had diabetes (4.7% of the global population). By 2014 this had risen to 422 million adults (8.5% of the global population). By 2040, the number is expected to be 642 million adults. In the UK, there is estimated to be between 3 and 4 million people with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes accounts for more than 90% of all patients with diabetes. 
Cataracts and glaucoma are also more common among diabetics. It is also important to note that since the lens of the eye lets water through, if blood sugar concentrations vary a lot, the lens of the eye will shrink and swell with fluid accordingly. As a result, blurry vision is very common in poorly controlled diabetes. Patients are usually discouraged from getting a new eyeglass prescription until their blood sugar is controlled. This allows for a more accurate assessment of what kind of glasses prescription is required.

To diagnose diabetes, doctors will  take a medical history (ask you about symptoms) and ask for blood and urine samples. Finding protein and sugar in the urine are signs of type 2 diabetes. Increased glucose and triglyceride (a type of lipid or fat) levels in the blood are also common findings. In most cases, blood glucose levels are checked after a person has been fasting for 8 hours.


Autonomic changes involving cardiovascular control (eg, heart rate, postural responses) have been described in as many as 40% of children with diabetes. Cardiovascular control changes become more likely with increasing duration and worsening control. [18] In a study by 253 patients with type 1 diabetes (mean age at baseline 14.4 y), Cho et al reported that the prevalence of cardiac autonomic dysfunction increases in association with higher body mass index and central adiposity. [19]
Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness and visual disability. Diabetes mellitus is associated with damage to the small blood vessels in the retina, resulting in loss of vision. Findings, consistent from study to study, make it possible to suggest that, after 15 years of diabetes, approximately 2% of people become blind, while about 10% develop severe visual handicap. Loss of vision due to certain types of glaucoma and cataract may also be more common in people with diabetes than in those without the disease.

Low glycemic index foods also may be helpful. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food causes a rise in your blood sugar. Foods with a high glycemic index raise your blood sugar quickly. Low glycemic index foods may help you achieve a more stable blood sugar. Foods with a low glycemic index typically are foods that are higher in fiber.


All children with type 1 diabetes mellitus require insulin therapy. Most require 2 or more injections of insulin daily, with doses adjusted on the basis of self-monitoring of blood glucose levels. Insulin replacement is accomplished by giving a basal insulin and a preprandial (premeal) insulin. The basal insulin is either long-acting (glargine or detemir) or intermediate-acting (NPH). The preprandial insulin is either rapid-acting (lispro, aspart, or glulisine) or short-acting (regular).


Heart disease accounts for approximately 50% of all deaths among people with diabetes in industrialized countries. Risk factors for heart disease in people with diabetes include smoking, high blood pressure, high serum cholesterol and obesity. Diabetes negates the protection from heart disease which pre-menopausal women without diabetes experience. Recognition and management of these conditions may delay or prevent heart disease in people with diabetes.
Insulin inhibits glucogenesis and glycogenolysis, while stimulating glucose uptake. In nondiabetic individuals, insulin production by the pancreatic islet cells is suppressed when blood glucose levels fall below 83 mg/dL (4.6 mmol/L). If insulin is injected into a treated child with diabetes who has not eaten adequate amounts of carbohydrates, blood glucose levels progressively fall.
In addition to learning about diabetes itself, older people may have to learn how to fit management of diabetes in with their management of other disorders. Learning about how to avoid complications, such as dehydration, skin breakdown, and circulation problems, and to manage factors that can contribute to complications of diabetes, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, is especially important. Such problems become more common as people age, whether they have diabetes or not.
Talk with your doctor about connecting with a certified diabetes educator and receiving diabetes self-management education. Learning about what to eat, what your medicines do, and how to test your blood sugars are just some of the things these resources can help with. Educators can also dispel myths, create meal plans, coordinate other doctors appointments for you, and listen to your needs. They are trained to teach using a patient-centered approach. They are your advocates who specialize in diabetes. Ask your doctor today or go to the American Association of Diabetes Educators website to find someone near you. Be sure to call your insurance company to see if these services are covered, too.

Glucose is vital to your health because it's an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It's also your brain's main source of fuel. If you have diabetes, no matter what type, it means you have too much glucose in your blood, although the causes may differ. Too much glucose can lead to serious health problems.

Dr. Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, received a BA in anthropology from the University of Colorado, her doctorate of naturopathic medicine (ND) from Bastyr University, and a masters of public health (MPH) in health services research from the University of Washington. She completed her residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in ambulatory primary care and fellowship training at the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Washington.
Diabetes mellitus is not a single disorder but a heterogeneous group of disorders. All forms are characterized by hyperglycemia and disturbances of carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism which are associated with absolute or relative deficiencies of insulin action and/or insulin secretion. The World Health Organization (WHO) developed a now widely accepted classification of the disorder, largely based on clinical characteristics (see Table 1, WHO, 1985).
Because both yeast and bacteria multiply more quickly when blood sugar levels are elevated, women with diabetes are overall at a higher risk of feminine health issues, such as bacterial infections, yeast infections, and vaginal thrush, especially when blood sugar isn't well controlled. And a lack of awareness about having prediabetes or diabetes can make managing blood sugar impossible.
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