When you have diabetes you have more chance of developing a range of infections.
Bladder and kidney infections
Because of the extra glucose in your urine it provides an excellent source of food for any bacteria or germs. This increases your risk of getting bladder or kidney infections.
If the nerves to the bladder have been damaged by diabetes, the bladder may not empty completely when passing urine, leaving some urine within the bladder. This leaves a pool within which germs can multiply.
The symptoms you will get if you have a bladder infection are the passing of small amounts of urine at more frequent intervals both by day and by night, and a burning discomfort or pain while passing urine. Backache is also a symptom of kidney infection.
Infection of the bladder is called cystitis while infection of the kidneys is called pyelitis or pyelonephritis. Often bladder and kidney infections occur together. These infections are diagnosed by a laboratory examination of a specimen of urine, and by a urine culture test. Infections are usually treated effectively by antibiotics taken by mouth.
When you have diabetes you are prone to get problems affecting your gums, teeth and mouth. Infections can make your blood glucose hard to control.
You are also more prone to fungal infections such as thrush. If you tend to have high blood glucose levels or if you take antibiotics often, you are even more likely to have this problem.
There is a lot you can do to fight gum disease (brushing your teeth twice daily, flossing once every day, keeping an eye out for early signs of gum disease, and visiting your dentist at least twice a year).
For more information on this go to our Gum, Teeth and Mouth Problems section of this website.
Foot problems in diabetes are often caused by nerve damage and/or damage to the blood vessels. By removing sensation in your feet, nerve damage may prevent you from noticing the early stages of infection. Blocked or damaged blood vessels make it:
- More likely you'll get infections
- Harder to fight off infections that are already there
You can prevent serious foot problems. Prevention depends on you maintaining healthy blood glucose and blood pressure levels, taking good care of your feet every day and keeping in close contact with your podiatrist and/or doctor if you have a foot problem.
You can find a lot more information about this topic in our Diabetes and your feet section of this website.
Up to a third of people with diabetes will have a skin disorder caused or affected by diabetes at some time in their lives. Some of these problems are skin conditions that anyone can have, but people with diabetes can get them more easily, including bacterial infections (like styles, boils and carbuncles) and infections (like athlete's foot, ringworm and thrush).
You are far less likely to develop skin problems if you take good care of your skin, and have healthy blood glucose, blood pressure and blood cholesterol (lipids) levels.
The vaginal secretions of women with diabetes often contain increased amounts of glucose, providing an excellent source of food on which germs (bacteria and fungi) can grow.
Symptoms of vaginal infection are itching of the vagina and vulva, often associated with a discharge from the vagina.
Vaginal infections can be treated with pessaries or creams. Occasionally a course of tablets taken orally by both yourself and your sexual partner is also needed. If your blood glucose levels are high, getting them down to a healthy range often helps the treatment to work. It can also help to prevent vaginal infections coming back.