Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a number of short and long-term health complications, including hypoglycemia, heart disease, nerve damage and amputation, and vision problems.
The majority of these diabetes-related conditions occur as a result of uncontrolled blood glucose levels, particularly elevated blood sugar over a prolonged period of time.
It is essential that diabetics are aware of the complications that can occur as a result of diabetes to ensure that the first symptoms of any possible illness are spotted before they develop.
In this section, you'll find information on all of the diseases, illnesses and disorders that are linked to diabetes, including the different causes, symptoms and treatments for each condition.
How common are complications of diabetes?
It is common for most people with diabetes to begin to develop complications after having diabetes for a number of years.
With good diabetes control and living a healthy, active lifestyle, it is possible for people to go a number of decades complication free.
However, if you have had less well controlled diabetes, have led a less healthy lifestyle, or had undiagnosed diabetes for a number of years, the complications of diabetes are more likely to develop earlier.
Explore the complications of diabetes
Guides to 112 complications, illnesses and disorders linked to diabetes.
Kidney disease is known as nephropathy.
Why do complications occur?
Scientists still do not fully understand how complications develop.
How do I prevent complications?
The risk of developing complications can be reduced by following a number of healthy lifestyle steps:
- Achieving good control of your blood glucose levels and HbA1c
- Losing weight - if you are currently overweight or obese
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Taking regular physical activity - at least a total of 2 and a half hours each week
- Having a low alcohol intake
- Quitting smoking
Reducing your HbA1c
Large scale research studies have shown that the chances of developing the most common complications rises significantly in proportion to each 1% increase in HbA1c levels.
The most widely reported long-term diabetes complications include:
HbA1c, or haemoglobin A1c, is a molecule in the blood that can be measured to give clinicians an overall picture of a patient's average blood sugar levels over the previous 8-12 weeks.
This long-term measure of blood glucose is important for people with diabetes as the higher their HbA1c value, the greater the risk of developing serious diabetic complications.
By reducing HbA1c and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels well controlled, people with diabetes can reduce their risk of diabetic complications.
Diabetic complications are the name given to when one or more parts of your body become damaged as a result of diabetes. It’s a scary prospect but we can help to prevent the onset of complications.
Cutting straight to the chase, the main long term complications of diabetes include:
- Heart disease
- Kidney damage - known as nephropathy
- Eye damage - called retinopathy
- Nerve damage - known as neuropathy
- Limb amputations
There are steps we can take to prevent, delay or minimise the effect of complications. These steps include:
- Keep your blood sugars under control
- Attend all your diabetic reviews and screenings
- Live a healthy lifestyle
If you’re finding it difficult to control your levels, your doctor will usually be able to put you onto a course to help you get better control.
The Diabetes.co.uk Forum is a great option for picking up on the valuable experience of others with diabetes.
Attending your diabetic reviews and screenings are an essential part of avoiding the effects of complications. The sooner you can spot the evidence of complications, the better position you’ll be in to hold them back. It’s much easier to treat complications in the early stages than it is once they’ve developed.
Living a healthy lifestyle takes in the following:
- Avoid or cut down on smoking and drinking
- Get some physical activity into each day
- Eat a healthy diet
Processed foods, including takeaways, can increase problems for the body and are best replaced with home prepared food where possible.
Whilst different treatments will be available for different complications, many of the most common diabetes-related condition can be better controlled, and their development limited, by following the healthy lifestyle steps for preventing complications.
If you have been diagnosed with one of the complications of diabetes, it can be possible to live unhindered by the condition at first. It is very important though to do whatever you can to follow the healthy lifestyle recommendations to prevent the complications becoming more damaging.