Infections as Diabetes Complications

High blood glucose levels put you at greater risk for infection.

The white blood cells attack the invading bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can cause infections. An excess of glucose makes the white cells less effective. This can keep them from reaching and killing their targets - the invading germs that cause infection.

To make matters worse, some of the invading pathogens feed on the extra glucose in the blood, making infection even more likely. People with diabetes tend to have more infections: in the mouth, ears, gums, lungs, skin, feet, and genital areas and in the incision areas after major surgery.

Other complications of diabetes can add insult to injury.

When neuropathy affects the bladder, the bladder is more likely to become infected. Neuropathy can make you unaware that you need to urinate, which increases the risk for bladder infection. If neuropathy affects your arms, legs, or feet, you may be less likely to notice a cut or burn, because you will not feel pain.

Left untreated, even minor skin abrasions can sometimes lead to infection.

There are several reasons why your legs and feet are prone to infection:

  •   neuropathy numbs legs and feet, making you unaware of injury and infection
  • injury opens the door to infection
  • diseased blood vessels slow blood flow to the legs and feet, impairing the healing process
  • high blood glucose disables the body’s immune cells, the white blood cells

It doesn’t matter where in the body an infection happens to start - the gums, vagina, skin, or feet. Infections need to be treated. They can quickly get worse and cause serious problems.

Oral Health. People with diabetes are at high risk for gum disease and periodontitis, so you need to be extra vigilant about brushing and flossing daily. Have your teeth cleaned at least every 6 months. Bacteria love to feast on the areas between your gums and teeth.

Your Risk, in General: Infections

  • Although the rate of kidney infections is about the same in people with or without diabetes, people with diabetes are twice as likely to need to be hospitalized to treat the infection.
  • Almost one-third of people with diabetes have severe gum disease.
  •   Recurrence of tuberculosis was found to be 5 times more common among Native Americans with diabetes compared to those without diabetes.
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