Mario A. Martinez, MD

If you spill a soft drink on the floor and no one cleans it up promptly, it will become sticky, like glue when it dries.  When sugar gets into solution, it becomes very sticky. This is how diabetes ravages the body. High levels of sugar in the blood will stick to the inside of blood vessels. This causes especially the small blood vessels to become clogged up with sugar residue. This is the mechanism by which diabetes is a risk factor for stroke. It is also the leading preventable cause of blindness. It causes an increased risk of heart attack. It is the leading cause of kidney failure. Most people on hemodialysis are on dialysis because they were long-term uncontrolled diabetics.  It causes problems with the circulation in the gut as well. The first thing to go with uncontrolled diabetes in men is the function of the penis. This is because thousands of tiny blood vessels must become engorged and stay engorged in order to achieve and maintain erection. These blood vessels become clogged up with sugar residue. This causes a type of erectile dysfunction that does not respond well to medications like Viagra. Long-term uncontrolled diabetes causes problems with the circulation in the legs as well.

Uncontrolled diabetes directly damages nerves as well. Like electrical wires, nerves have insulator cells called Schwann cells. These cells allow glucose to enter without the aid of insulin. When the blood sugar is very high, so much glucose will enter these cells that they will begin to rupture. This leaves large pieces of nerves without insulation, and like wires without insulation, they will begin to short out. This is why long-term uncontrolled diabetics have a burning, numbness and tingling in their feet. These patients do not feel their feet the way non-diabetics do. If they buy a new pair of shoes that don’t fit right, or if they cut their foot while walking around the house barefooted, they don’t feel the injury. Infection sets in very quickly because uncontrolled diabetics are like a cookie for bacteria to grow on. Their blood is full of sugar, their urine is full of sugar, and their tissue is full of sugar.  The white blood cells travel to the site of infection through the blood vessels. When the small blood vessels are clogged up with sugar residue, the white blood cells cannot get to the site of infection easily. This is why long-term uncontrolled diabetes is the leading cause of amputation.