8 Unexpected Side Effects of Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use the produced insulin. Insulin is a hormone that acts like a key, unlocking the door for glucose (a type of sugar) to enter your cells and provide energy. Uncontrolled blood sugar can lead to various well-known complications, like fatigue and frequent urination. But beyond these, there are also some unexpected ways diabetes can impact your health. Here we will explore 8 unexpected side effects of diabetes that can impact your well-being.

A Smiling female doctor holding a tab to indicate the 8 Unexpected Side Effects of Diabetes.

8 unexpected side effects of diabetes You Should Be Aware of

These are the side effects we will discuss:

  • Kidney Disease
  • Nerve Damage
  • Eye Problem
  • Gum Disease
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Skin Problems
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnoea
  • High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels

Let’s get into the details…

Kidney Disease

Our kidneys are amazing little organs that act as our body’s filtration system. They constantly sift through our blood, removing waste products and excess fluid. But high blood sugar from diabetes can overwork your kidneys, damaging the delicate filters within them. Slowly, this can lead to chronic kidney disease and even kidney failure, where your kidneys can no longer function properly. Healthy kidneys are very important for maintaining a healthy balance of fluids and electrolytes in your body. They also help regulate blood pressure and produce hormones essential for red blood cell production and bone health.

Nerve Damage

Diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage caused by diabetes, is another unexpected complication. Chronically high blood sugar levels can damage the nerves throughout our body. This can lead to various symptoms, including pain, numbness, and tingling sensations, often starting in the feet and hands and progressing upwards. In severe cases, nerve damage can affect our balance and coordination, making everyday activities like walking, climbing stairs, or even buttoning our clothes a challenge.

Eye Problem

Diabetes significantly increases the risk of developing serious eye problems. High blood sugar can damage the delicate blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye. This can be responsible for diabetic retinopathy, which is a leading cause of blindness among adults. Diabetes can also contribute to glaucoma, a condition that damages the optic nerve. Early detection and treatment are very important to prevent vision loss. Regular eye exams, even if you have no noticeable vision problems, are essential for managing your eye health with diabetes.

Gum Disease

Diabetes weakens our body’s immune system, making us more susceptible to gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. This chronic inflammatory condition affects the tissues that support your teeth. Poor blood sugar control can worsen gum disease, leading to pain, swelling, receding gums, and even tooth loss. Maintaining good oral hygiene practices, including brushing twice daily, flossing regularly, and scheduling regular dental checkups, is crucial for preventing gum disease and keeping your smile healthy.

Cardiovascular Disease

Many people associate heart disease with risk factors like smoking and high cholesterol. However, diabetes is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attack, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease (PAD). High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and contribute to the buildup of plaque, and fatty deposits that narrow arteries. Additionally, diabetes often co-occurs with high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels, further increasing the risk of cardiovascular complications. Managing your blood sugar, along with controlling blood pressure and cholesterol through diet, exercise, and medication (if needed), is essential for protecting your heart health.

Skin Problems

Diabetes can manifest in surprising ways on your skin. High blood sugar levels weaken your immune system, making you more prone to skin infections like boils, fungal infections, and bacterial infections. Additionally, diabetes can impair circulation and slow down wound healing, potentially leading to delayed healing of even minor cuts or scrapes. Diabetic dermopathy, characterized by reddish-brown, scaly patches on the shins, is another skin complication associated with diabetes. Maintaining good skin care practices, including daily moisturizing, regular foot checks for injuries, and keeping your blood sugar under control, can help prevent these skin issues.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition where your breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. People with diabetes are more likely to develop OSA. The exact reasons for this link are still under investigation, but factors like excess weight gain (common in some people with diabetes) and nerve damage affecting the muscles that control breathing may play a role. Symptoms of OSA include loud snoring, gasping for air during sleep, and daytime sleepiness. Left untreated, OSA can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. If you suspect you might have OSA, talk to your doctor about getting a sleep study.

High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels

Diabetes can create a domino effect on your cardiovascular health. Chronically high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and make them more susceptible to hardening and narrowing. This can lead to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Additionally, diabetes often disrupts your body’s ability to manage cholesterol levels, potentially leading to high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol. By managing your diabetes through lifestyle changes like a healthy diet and regular exercise, you can significantly reduce your risk of these complications. In some cases, medication may also be necessary to control blood pressure and cholesterol effectively.


Diabetes can have a far-reaching impact on your health, extending beyond the well-known complications. As we’ve explored, unexpected issues like kidney disease, nerve damage, vision problems, and gum disease can arise due to uncontrolled blood sugar. Diabetes also increases your risk of skin problems, sleep apnea, and high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

The good news is that by effectively managing your diabetes through diet, exercise, medication, and regular checkups, you can significantly minimize these risks. Don’t hesitate to discuss any concerns you might have with your doctor. They can work with you to create a personalized plan to optimize your health and well-being with diabetes.

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