Most people who have diabetes know that over time, the disease can cause complications involving the eyes, nerves, kidneys, and heart, as well as foot infections. But did you know diabetes can also cause other, lesser-known problems? Read further to find out some surprising health issues caused by diabetes.
People with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss compared to the rest of the population, according to the American Diabetes Association. In addition, of the 86 million adults in the United States who have prediabetes, the rate of hearing loss is 30% higher than in those with normal blood sugar levels. It is thought that high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes may damage the small blood vessels in the inner ear, causing hearing loss, but more research is needed to know the exact cause.
If you have diabetes and think you are not hearing as well as you used to, talk to your primary care doctor. You might get referred to a hearing specialist, such as an audiologist, for a full hearing exam. Based on the results of your hearing exam, your healthcare team will assist you in treating your hearing loss.
Gum Disease and Other Oral Health Issues
Having diabetes increases your risk for oral health problems, which is why good blood sugar control and caring for your teeth are important. Poorly controlled or uncontrolled diabetes increases the chance of gum disease or gum inflammation, dry mouth, and mouth sores that don’t heal well. Some of these problems can eventually lead to difficulty chewing, cavities, mouth pain, and tooth loss. Another common issue is oral candidiasis (thrush), which can cause a burning sensation or metallic taste in the mouth
You can lower the chance of mouth problems by brushing and flossing daily, removing and cleaning dentures daily (if you have dentures), having dental check-ups every 6 months, and avoiding smoking. Part of managing your diabetes includes keeping your dentist informed about your condition so he or she can help prevent problems.
Vaginal Yeast Infections
You may be surprised to know that women with diabetes are more likely to have vaginal yeast infections triggered by higher than normal blood sugar levels. Why are yeast infections more common among women with diabetes? It’s because high blood sugar is the perfect trigger to encourage growth of yeast within the body. So, it’s normal to have small amounts of yeast in the vagina, but too much yeast causes an infection. Symptoms of vaginal yeast infection can be uncomfortable and may include redness, itchiness, swelling, burning when urinating, and vaginal discharge.
To lower the chance of vaginal yeast infection, maintain blood sugar control and practice good general hygiene (wiping from front to back after urinating, wearing cotton underwear, bathing regularly, and not wearing a wet bathing suit for too long). If you think you have a vaginal yeast infection, talk to your doctor. While there are many over-the-counter remedies, vaginal yeast infections have some of the same symptoms as other infections, so it’s important to have your doctor make a diagnosis.
If you have four or more vaginal yeast infections in one year, talk to your doctor about treatment options. About 5% of women get four or more vaginal yeast infections in one year, called recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis (RVVC), and this is more common in women with diabetes. Doctors most often treat RVVC with long-term (up to 6 months) antifungal medicine, but researchers are also studying the effects of a vaccine to help prevent RVVC.
Complications due to Diabetes, Centers for Disease Control
Diabetes and Hearing Loss, American Diabetes Association:
Diabetes and Oral Health Problems, American Diabetes Association:
Diabetes and Oral Health, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIH:
Oral Thrush, Mayo Clinic:
Patient Information: Vaginal Yeast Infection, Up To Date
Simple Steps to Better Dental Health, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine:
Vaginal Yeast Infection, Office on Women’s Health, DHHS
Women and Diabetes, American Diabetes Association
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regime.