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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:46 pm
Many of the long-term complications of diabetes (die-uh-BEE-tees) are due to nerve and blood vessel damage. Because glucose is able to directly enter the cells in your nervous system, heart, blood vessels, and kidneys, these structures are more vulnerable to harm. Diabetes can thicken the linings of your blood vessels, putting you at greater risk for heart attack or stroke. Narrowed vessels may also lead to weakness or cramping in the calves. When tiny arteries in the eyes or kidneys are destroyed, blindness or kidney disease may result. Damage to nerves can cause loss of sensation in the hands, legs, or feet. Without feeling in these areas, an injury could go unnoticed, and become infected. In addition, the lack of proper blood flow makes it harder for your body to heal itself. In extreme cases, amputation of a limb might be necessary. That's why it's vital to take care of any wound immediately. Not everyone with diabetes will experience complications. Studies have shown that keeping blood sugar levels close to normal can greatly reduce complications. Yet, even in those who carefully manage their diabetes, problems may occasionally develop. For that reason, it's wise to get regular exams. A doctor might spot potential problems, before they progress.

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