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What are the Complications of Diabetes?

Posted by Charlene J. Nuble on Oct 9th, 2002 in Information, Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes Symptoms Much of the treatment of diabetes is the prevention and avoidance of complications. The complications of diabetes include heart disease, stroke, eye problems which can cause blindness, kidney disease, and vascular problems that can lead to foot amputation. Sixty percent of those with type 2 diabetes have one or more serious health problem related to the disease.

Heart disease:

  • This is the most common complication of diabetes. The risk of heart disease doubles when a person develops the disease. The arteries that supply blood to the heart become blocked with fat and cholesterol, blocking blood flow and increasing the chances for a heart attack.

Kidney disease and kidney failure:

  • When kidney disease occurs, the kidneys stop filtering waste and excess water from the blood. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease and this complication of diabetes often ends in kidney failure. When kidney failure occurs, a persons only options for survival are dialysis or kidney transplant.

Vision problems:

  • While many vision problems related to diabetes can be corrected early in the disease, complications can be much more severe long term. Blurred vision can occur because of changing glucose levels which affect the lens of the eye causing it to swell. Glaucoma and cataracts are frequent complications of diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy, a disease of the retina is also a concern and, people with diabetes are more likely to become blind that those who never get it.

Nerve damage:

  • A nerve disorder (diabetic neuropathy) is caused by diabetes. Some nerve damage causes pain. Other nerve damage removes the sensation of pain and causes numbness. Some people have both types of symptoms at the same time. The cause of diabetic neuropathy is unknown but having high glucose levels over a period of years is thought to play a large role.


  • Your ability to fight infection is diminished when you have diabetes. Typical areas of infection are bladder, kidneys, gums, feet, and skin. Vaginal infections are common in women with diabetes. Having high blood sugar causes bacteria to grow and infections can develop much faster.

Sexual problems:

  • Sexual complications of diabetes are related to the nerve damage that the disease causes. Men may have a problem getting and maintaining an erection or with ejaculation. Women may have problems with vaginal lubrication.

Foot problems:

  • Because of the numbness caused by nerve damage people with diabetes may suffer foot injuries. Foot ulcers are common and perhaps the most serious problem. These can be difficult to heal and in extreme cases amputation may be required. Seeking immediate medical help with foot ulcers is very important.

It’s important to know how serious the complications of diabetes can be. The person with the disease is the one most responsible for doing the things necessary to minimize or avoid them. Think of diabetes care as full time job, and avoiding complications is well worth the effort. It’s also important to know that keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible is always the first line of defense.

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