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The Relationships Between Diabetes and Other Diseases and Conditions

The diabetes epidemic in America is dangerous in more ways than most people realize. The Center for Disease Control recently released information noting that over 63% of Americans are in the danger zone for diabetes with a Body Mass Index (BMI) high enough to qualify them as overweight. Other studies show that diabetes not only directly causes other conditions and perilous symptoms, but is linked with diseases of the kidneys and heart. To prevent further health problems from arising, it is important to understand the correlation between diabetes and other diseases as any diabetic ages and becomes more predisposed to other conditions.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Retinopathy is a direct symptom of diabetes; the disease causes decreased and blurry vision and eventually blindness. The effect of diabetic retinopathy on vision varies depending on the stage of the disease. Diabetes’ effect on the retina is a severe threat, mostly seen in elderly sufferers.

Diabetics also usually see long-term effects of the disease on the circulatory system. As the disease progresses the arteries in the retina become weak and they leak to form hemorrhages. Circulation problems in later stages of diabetes drive the retinopathy by causing areas of the eye to become oxygen-deprived. New vessels develop that hemorrhage easily, and blood may leak into the retina as well.


Obesity and diabetes are scientifically proven to be directly linked. In fact, obesity is a direct cause of Type II Diabetes. With an excessive proportion of total body fat, obesity is dangerous because it causes elevated blood glucose levels. The human body manufactures insulin after every meal to alert cells that higher levels of glucose are on the way. Type II Diabetes sufferers lack the ability to use the insulin hormone. If the insulin isn’t used correctly, the body doesn’t digest food correctly, hence increasing the risk of further weight gain as well as diabetes.

Kidney Disease/Kidney Failure

Diabetes has a direct effect on many parts of the body. According to the National Kidney Foundation, diabetic kidney disease results from the simplest thing -- injured small blood vessels in the body. When the blood vessels in the kidneys are injured, the kidneys cannot clean the blood properly. The human body will retain more water and salt than it should (which can also result in weight gain and ankle swelling). Also, protein may appear in the urine, and waste materials will build up in the blood.

Type II Diabetes may also cause nerve damage which, in turn causes difficulty in emptying the bladder. The pressure resulting from a full bladder can back up and injure the kidneys. If urine remains in the bladder for too long, infections can develop from the rapid growth of bacteria that grows from the high levels of sugar.

Heart Disease & Stroke

The American Diabetes Association recently released information that says two out of three people with Type II Diabetes die from heart disease and stroke. As such, diabetes and heart disease are commonly found to be working in tandem and people with diabetes are more likely to get heart disease. When a person has diabetes, their blood sugar level is often much higher than it should be. Too much sugar in the blood can cause damage to many parts of the body, including blood vessels. Heart disease is a direct result of the narrowed or blocked blood vessels that go to the heart. Hence, increased blood sugar levels, common with Type II Diabetes sufferers, causes increased risk of heart disease.

Breast Cancer

For years, scientists have looked at a possible relationship between breast cancer and diabetes. It has been suggested that high levels of insulin may increase the risk of breast cancer. However, many factors, such as obesity increase the risk for both breast cancer and diabetes, so it has been difficult for scien¬tists to discover whether diabetes itself is the issue. Still, research shows that women with diabetes have a 20% higher risk of breast cancer than women without diabetes. One recent study suggests that high blood sugar - a cornerstone in diabetics - increases the risk of breast cancer even among pre-menopausal women. Significant weight gain (more than 55 lbs. since age 18, or 22 lbs. after menopause) – a catalyst in causing diabetes- can also increase risk of breast cancer.

Foot Problems

Of the 16 million Americans with diabetes, over 25% will develop foot problems related to the disease, according to Diabetic foot problems develop from a combination of causes including poor circulation and neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy can cause insensitivity or a loss of ability to feel pain, heat, and cold. Diabetics suffering from neuropathy can develop minor cuts, scrapes, blisters, or pressure sores that they may not be aware of due to the insensitivity. If these minor injuries are left untreated, complications may result and lead to ulceration and possibly even amputation. also states that diabetic neuropathy can cause deformities including bunions, hammer toes, and charcot feet.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

CTS is another very common feature of diabetic neuropathy. Because of this decreased or distorted nerve function, a patient’s ability to feel nerve sensation is lessened. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, weakness, and burning sensations, usually starting in the fingers and toes and moving up to the arms and legs. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a 2005 study reported that an estimated 85% of patients with Type 1 Diabetes develop CTS. Development of CTS was related to the patient's age and the length of time they had diabetes.

The conditions listed above all have connections to diabetes, and are becoming growing concerns for Americans as nation that is gaining weight. Awareness of these associated diseases will hopefully lead to better prevention, such as healthy diet and exercise. For more information on diabetes, prevention and treatment, visit the Articles & Resources section of

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