Managing Diabetes: Nerve and Blood Vessel Damage
Poorly controlled diabetes can put your eyesight at serious risk. Diabetes is the leading medical cause of new cases of blindness in the U.S.
Eye problems can result from slow, progressive damage to the tiny blood vessels in the back of the eyes. Common eye problems among people with diabetes include:
- Glaucoma: pressure inside the eyeball rises too high
- Cataracts: eye lenses cloud over, making it progressively more difficult to see
- Retinopathy: damage to the part of the eye that senses light
The good news is that these conditions can be treated. You'll need to visit your eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist) yearly for a dilated eye exam to check for these conditions and to discuss treatment options.
Nerve damage (neuropathy)
The nerves are the body's communications system. Nerves allow the brain to control the body's movements and functions. They control people's conscious actions, as well as unconscious activities like digestion and breathing. Nerves also keep the brain informed about the body's status. Nerve messages tell the brain when the body is hot or cold, whether it's injured and so on.
Nerve damage, also known as neuropathy, is a complication of diabetes. Nerve damage can produce a whole range of symptoms, depending on which nerves are affected, and how badly. Common symptoms include tingling, numbness or pain in the affected area.
If you notice any unusual sensations in any part of your body, or if you are experiencing unexplained loss of muscle control, see your doctor immediately.
Men with diabetes have an increased risk of impotence, also known as erectile dysfunction or ED. This is the inability to get or maintain an erection. Damage to blood vessels and nerves of the genitals often cause these problems. There is some evidence that women with diabetes may also be more prone to sexual problems such as lack of vaginal lubrication and delayed or absent orgasm.
If you have a sexual problem, don't be embarrassed to discuss it with your diabetes care team. Often, these problems can be treated with medications or in other ways.