What Are the Effects of Diabetes on Blood Sugar?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The main effect of diabetes on blood sugar or blood glucose is to elevate it because the body cannot properly put it to use. This is indirect, as the principal impact of diabetes is on either insulin production in diabetes Type I or receptor sensitivity to insulin in diabetes Type II. In either case, without adequate insulin or appropriate receptor function, blood sugar levels rise when the sugars can’t migrate into the body’s cells. This can cause a state of dangerously high blood sugar that can damage the body, while also depriving the cells of needed energy. Medications to treat this condition address the effect of diabetes on blood sugar in different ways.

A person with diabetes checking her blood glucose levels.
A person with diabetes checking her blood glucose levels.

In the healthy body, food that is consumed converts, in part, to glucose, which enters the bloodstream. Humans need an additional substance to properly make use of blood sugar. They require insulin, which is created in the pancreas. Insulin is the key to allowing glucose to leave the bloodstream and migrate into the body’s cells. Without it, the other cells are like locked doors, with insulin the missing key.

Insulin may help reduce the negative effects of diabetes on blood sugar.
Insulin may help reduce the negative effects of diabetes on blood sugar.

The effect of diabetes on blood sugar is usually the same, but it works differently depending on the type of the illness. In diabetes Type I, the pancreas is not producing insulin at all. Conversely, with diabetes Type II, the receptors that exist on cells have become sensitized to insulin, so they don’t always allow entry of blood glucose into the cells. It’s like having a key that only works occasionally. Over time, demand for insulin creation may also drop due to this insulin resistance.

Medications that may be given to address low insulin production or resistance to insulin may create a reverse effect of diabetes on blood sugar. In Type I, insulin is the main treatment and it can help glucose transfer from blood to cells. Type II forms of this condition may also use insulin and a medication called metformin. This medication increases the sensitivity of insulin receptors and lowers the amount of glucose that the body derives from food. Both insulin and metformin may help reduce the negative effects of diabetes on blood sugar.

On the other hand, both medications can also create undesirable effects. Too high of an insulin or metformin dose can cause most of the blood glucose to flood into the cells, and very low blood sugar or hypoglycemia may result. Trying to maintain a balance so that blood glucose falls into a normal range is difficult. It requires constant attention to diet and frequent monitoring of blood sugar levels. In diabetes Type II, metformin is often preferred because it tends to be less likely to result in hypoglycemia, but this is not a viable treatment option in Type I.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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    • A person with diabetes checking her blood glucose levels.
      A person with diabetes checking her blood glucose levels.
    • Insulin may help reduce the negative effects of diabetes on blood sugar.
      Insulin may help reduce the negative effects of diabetes on blood sugar.