Here are the most common complications with diabetes, however many people with diabetes, especially if they have good control, will not develop any of these.
Eye problems (Retinopathy)
This can occur when blood glucose levels have been high over a long period of time. The tiny blood vessels at the back of the eye can become leaky. If this is not picked up and treated this can eventually lead to blindness. Thankfully the UK retinal screening programme has been very effective in checking people with diabetes on at least an annual basis and has prevented a lot of people losing their sight.
This is why it is essential to attend your retinal screening appointments.
If you do need treatment the hospital can treat the tiny bleeds by laser therapy and this can prevent the damage affecting the eyesight.
Retinopathy is symptomless in its early stages and should not be confused with the temporary blurry vision some people get when their blood glucose is high or low.
Cardio vascular disease (CVD)
This can include heart attack and stroke. The risk of these conditions is increased in people with diabetes so it is important to keep blood glucose levels as near to normal as possible and also have blood pressure and blood fats checked regularly. Medication maybe recommended at lower thresholds than for people without diabetes.
Kidney disease (Nephropathy)
This is where the kidneys can become damaged due to the effects of long-term high blood glucose levels. Your healthcare professional will check to determine the health of your kidneys and if necessary may recommend medication or a referral to a kidney specialist.
Nerve damage (Neuropathy)
This affects various parts of the body but is more likely to affect the feet and hands. If a person also has CVD which will affect the circulation you can get more problems as the nerve damage to the feet combined with poor circulation can mean that any issue with the feet can become serious quickly. This is why is it vital that people with diabetes take extra care with looking after their feet.
More advice can be found at: -
Linked to the nerve damage problems is also a condition called gastroparesis. This is where nerves supplying the digestive system are damaged and this results in delayed gastric emptying.
More information on gastroparesis can be found below:-
Both men and women may experience sexual problems that could be related to diabetes. This is something that some people maybe embarrassed to talk to their healthcare professional about but its an important part of our lives.
More advice is here for men: -
and for women: -
People with diabetes are more likely to suffer from gum disease, which in itself although not life threatening can be related to other problems that can be, such as heart disease. Good oral hygiene is obviously important and also regular check-ups with a dentist.
Depression is more common among people with diabetes. There are several things that can help to treat depression. These can include medication and/or some sort of counselling. Please speak to your healthcare professional if you feel that your mood is affecting your ability to look after yourself.
In Medway we have talking therapies please see the link to their website below:-
There are also many strategies that can be used to help with depression or low mood. These are explored further in the wellbeing section of this website.
There is some evidence to show that people with diabetes may be at an increased risk of dementia. There is currently research to try to determine exactly why this happens. It is thought it is to do with damage to the blood vessels involved with brain function leading to vascular dementia.
For more information on the research currently going on in the UK follow the links below:-