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Is smoking harmful for diabetics?

(This information applies to type 1 diabetes - Insulin dependent diabetes.)

Smoking can bring on illness associated with diabetes earlier, causing disability and death.

Diabetes occurs when a person does not have enough insulin, which normally helps keep blood sugar levels low. To protect their health, people with diabetes manage their blood sugar levels to keep them within the normal range.

People with diabetes who smoke have higher blood-sugar levels and less control over their blood-sugar levels than nonsmokers with diabetes.

Smoking affects circulation by increasing heart rate and blood pressure and by making small blood vessels narrower. Smoking also makes blood cells and blood-vessel walls sticky, and allows dangerous fatty material to build up. This can lead to heart attack, stroke and other blood vessel disease.

Young adult smokers with diabetes are two to three times more likely to be sick than nonsmokers with diabetes.

People with diabetes who smoke are more likely to:

  • die from heart disease.
  • suffer from circulation problems in their feet and legs, and develop blood vessel disease in the legs.
  • have pain and need amputation of a limb due to blood vessel disease in the legs.
  • develop life threatening kidney disease.
  • have problems with movement and flexibility in the joints.
  • develop nerve damage which can lead to numbness and pain.
  • develop problems with getting or maintaining an erection, due to the effects of smoking on the blood vessels of the penis.
  • develop gum disease which can lead to tooth loss.
  • suffer eye damage.

If you have diabetes and smoke, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to manage your diabetes and stay healthier for longer.