The full impact of diabetes can only be appreciated by understanding the possible complications it can cause.

Diabetes is a condition which can, over time, cause damage to the body’s organs, blood vessels and nerves.

Complications may occur because of prolonged or persistent high blood glucose levels.

You can reduce your risk of developing complications with the help of your healthcare team.

Managing your diabetes is very important for your long-term good health.

Some of the possible complications include:

Cardiovascular disease

Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems.

This can include coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina), heart attack, stroke and the narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis).

If you have diabetes, you’re more likely to have heart disease or stroke.

Nerve damage (neuropathy)

Prolonged high blood glucose levels may result in damage to the walls of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish your nerves, especially in your legs.

Tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upward are common symptoms.

Damage to the nerves related to digestion can cause problems with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. For men, it may lead to erectile dysfunction.

Kidney damage (nephropathy)

The kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessel clusters (glomeruli) that filter waste from your blood.

Diabetes can damage this delicate filtering system.

Severe damage can lead to irreversible kidney disease, which may require dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Eye damage (retinopathy)

Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy), potentially leading to blindness.

Diabetes also increases the risk of other serious vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.

Leg & foot damage

Nerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various foot complications.

Left untreated, cuts and blisters can develop serious infections, which often heal poorly.

These infections may ultimately require toe, foot or leg amputation.

Skin conditions

Diabetes may leave you more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial and fungal infections.

Hearing impairment

Hearing problems are more common in people with diabetes.

Alzheimer’s disease

Type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The poorer your blood glucose control, the greater the risk appears to be.


Depression symptoms are common in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Depression can also affect diabetes management.

Complications. Why prevention is so important.

In Australia…

  • More than 10,000 people with diabetes have gone blind.
  • More than 20,000 people with diabetes have had lower limb amputations.
  • More than 25,000 people with diabetes have had kidney failure.
  • More than 40,000 people with diabetes have had strokes.
  • More than 80,000 people with diabetes have had heart attacks.

Source: NDSS

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