Complications of Diabetes

Some people with diabetes eventually settle into a less-than-careful routine of watching their diet, exercising, taking prescribed medications, and seeing their doctor for regular checkups. Although you may feel fine—do not be fooled.

Prevent Diabetes Complications - Masterfile Image

Whenever your blood glucose levels go above normal, many organs in your body are affected. Each episode of hyperglycemia may cause minor damage, which over time can lead to major long-term complications, including macrovascular disease (abnormalities of large arteries supplying blood to the heart, brain, and legs), microvascular disease (abnormalities of small blood vessels in the kidneys and eyes), neuropathy (nerve damage), and changes in the skin, gums, teeth, and feet.

These complications of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes typically appear only after someone has had diabetes for years or even decades and fortunately, their development is not inevitable. Strong evidence suggests that good control of blood glucose and other risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol, can prevent or delay the onset of long-term complications and may reduce the severity of complications that do occur. However, improved glucose control may not reverse complications once they appear.

In April 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that major diabetes-related complications—including lower limb amputation, late-stage kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, and death from high blood sugar—have declined significantly among adults in the United States over the past 20 years. Factors credited include better control of blood pressure and blood sugar, as well as a decrease in the number of smokers.

Although rates of cardiovascular complications and death from hyperglycemia each declined by more than 60 percent, strokes and lower limb amputations declined by about 50 percent, and end-stage kidney failure rates fell by about 30 percent, the risk for long-term diabetes complications remains high, and continued efforts to prevent them are necessary. One of the goals is to reduce type 2 diabetes rates, which have risen sharply during this same time frame.

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 22 Apr 2009

Last Modified: 30 Jul 2014