Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar which affects many systems in the body, one of which is the immune system. This means people with diabetes are more prone to infections because high blood sugar levels weaken the immune system. Some diabetes-related health issues like diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) and decreased blood flow to the extremities also contribute to the development of these infections.
Some of the more common diabetic infections include foot complications, urinary tract infections and yeast infections.
Diabetic neuropathy causes a lack of sensation in the lower extremities, which means foot injuries can easily go unnoticed. If these injuries are left untreated, they get infected. Some types of neuropathy can also cause skin dryness leading to cracks and fissures of the foot. These splits in the skin allow for the entry of infections into the body from such areas of origin as foot ulcers and calluses. Decreased blood flow to the extremities also hampers the normal immune defenses and promotes infection.
People with diabetes spend more days in the hospital with foot infections than with any other complication. At some point in their lives, approximately 15 percent of people diagnosed with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer.
High blood sugar levels cause an increase in sugar in the urine as the body attempts to remove the excess sugar via the kidneys. This serves as food to the bacterial cultures in the urinary tract. Most often, bacteria E coli causes infection. When an increased bacterial growth develops in the bladder it causes a urinary bladder infection called cystitis. If cystitis is left untreated, bacteria can migrate from the bladder to the kidneys. Once there, it can cause kidney infections known as Pyelonephritis.
Yeast cells (candida albicans) that occur naturally on the skin and mucus membrane, can enter the body through the insulin injection site. Once the yeast cells enter the blood stream, they interfere with the normal defense mechanism of the white blood cells. When the white blood cells get impaired, the yeast cells replicate unchecked, causing yeast infections.
High blood sugar levels also serve as food for the candida albicans and work to promote the infections. The common yeast infections in diabetics include:
- vaginal yeast infection,
- oral thrush,
- skin, and
- nail-bed infections.
The untreated yeast infection can even enter the bloodstream causing a life-threatening systemic yeast infection.
Diabetics are usually advised to maintain close diligence of their skin at all times. Any cuts or sores should be closely monitored so that they do not develop into infections. If they do, your doctor should be notified immediately. Some infections of the feet can increase into such severity that amputation is necessary.
You feet should be checked at every visit by your doctor. If you have a problem with your feet, such as ingrown toenails or a fungal infection, your doctor should immediately refer you to a foot specialist, preferably one experienced in treating people with diabetes.