The Possible Complications of Diabetes

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes heart disease, stroke and all other diseases of the heart and circulation. People with Diabetes have about twice the risk of developing a range of CVD, compared with those without Diabetes.

Research shows that improving dietary habits, managing weight, keeping active and using medication where required reduces the overall chance of developing CVD. Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of death and disability in people with Diabetes, and data shows that heart failure is the most common cardiovascular complication of Diabetes.

Kidney Disease

The kidneys are the organs that filter and clean the blood and get rid of any waste products by making urine. Kidney disease is caused by damage to small blood vessels making the kidneys work less efficiently and this can cause the kidneys to start to fail. The disease is much more common in people with Diabetes and people with high blood pressure.

Keeping blood glucose levels as near normal as possible and blood pressure well controlled can greatly reduce the risk of kidney disease developing. Diabetes is the single most common cause of end stage renal disease requiring dialysis or transplant.

Eye Disease

People with Diabetes are at risk of developing Diabetic Retinopathy which affects the blood vessels supplying the retina, the seeing part of the eye, and if left untreated can damage vision.

Keeping blood glucose and blood pressure under control will help to reduce the risk of developing retinopathy. Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable sight loss in people of working age in Wales.

Amputation of Limbs

Foot problems can affect anyone who has Diabetes and if it is poorly controlled, can damage your nerves, muscles, sweat glands and circulation in the feet and legs leading to amputations.

Reviewing the feet of people with Diabetes regularly and keeping blood glucose and blood pressure under control can prevent some of the complications associated with the feet.


People with Diabetes may have emotional or psychological support needs resulting from living with Diabetes. Coming to terms with diagnosis, the development of a complication, the side effects of medication, or dealing with the daily responsibility of self-managing Diabetes can take their toll on emotional wellbeing. In some instances this can lead to depression, anxiety, eating disorders or phobias.

Studies suggest that people with Diabetes are twice as likely to suffer an episode of depression. People who suffer with depression are also very likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes.


Neuropathy causes damage to the nerves that transmit impulses to and from the brain to the body’s major organs.

The best way to reduce the risk of developing neuropathy, or prevent it becoming worse, is to control blood glucose levels. Nerve damage may affect up to half of patients with Diabetes.

Sexual Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence is one of the most common sexual problems experienced by men with Diabetes, affecting between three to nine out of ten men with Diabetes.

The incidence of sexual dysfunction in women with Diabetes appears to be generally linked less to organic factors and more to psychological factors.

Complications in Pregnancy

Pregnancy poses additional risks for women with Diabetes.

The chances of having difficulties are greatly reduced through tight blood glucose control before and during pregnancy. Babies of women with Diabetes are significantly more at risk of a number of complications to the extent that good management of the condition becomes critical.


People with Diabetes have a much higher risk of suffering from dementia.

Some emerging theories suggest that there is a link with increased levels of insulin in the blood and dementia. This is due to high levels of blood sugar and therefore makes good control of blood glucose even more important.

Diabetes sufferers considering lifestyle adjustment should always consult their healthcare professional before embarking on any change.