Approximately 11 million residents of the US have diabetes, although about half are unaware that they even have
it. Complications from diabetes can be deadly, and by some estimates it is the 6th leading cause of death. This
figure does not even include the diabetic who dies from stroke or heart attack, both of which are complications of
You need to Know about the complications of diabetes because it will help you avoid the "it can't happen to me"
kinds of denial that accompany most poor diabetic control. That excuse won't work if you see how many different
problems may lie in store, and especially when you realize that there is good research out there that shows tight
blood glucose control can avert many of these complications.
Diabetes Eye Complications
The World Health Organization estimates that for inidviduals between 21 and 65, diabetes is the leading reason
someone goes blind. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common problem, and within 10 years of the onset of diabetes,
about half have developed this disorder. Retinopathy involves damage to the blood vessels in the back of your eye,
in the thin membrane known as the retina. Diabetic Retinopathy and other likely eye complications, such as glaucoma
and cataracts are discussed in more depth in the section on Diabetic Eye Problems in the left navigation
The site map will also take you to articles about other complications such as foot problems, kidney disease,
heart attacks and strokes, and neuropathy, hearing loss, and peripheral artery disease. For an exhaustive
list of the complications see the discussion by the ADA called Living With Diabetes.
Complications Leading to Amputations
Amputations of the foot and leg are a problem for diabetics. The the diabetic process damages both
the blood and nerve flow to your extremeties over time, in addition to periheral artery disease, one
consequence is that often there is a gradual loss of sensory feedback from the toes and feet; this makes self care
to avoid infections more challenging as unless the diabetic makes a routine visual inspecation of his feet, he
may not notice when there is a sore or cut that has become infected. With diminshed blood flow there is less
ability to fight the infection and gangrene and other problems can necessitate surgical removal, in order to save
what is left of the limb.
Kidney Failure as a Consequence of Diabetes
High blood sugar can tax your kidneys, causing them to be overworked and eventually fail. If it is
caught early, kidney disease can be slowed, but when it goes undetacted in the early stages, kidney
failure is usually the result. Kidney failure often leads to death, and it neccesitates a kidney transplant or
Kidneys are the primary filters of waste products, and given the modern diet, there is a load of waste that
needs to be removed every day. When that filtering function breaks down, due to the diabetes, the
overworked kidney starts to leak proteins into the urine. This process is known as microalbuminuria. Again
early detection and treatment can make a big difference.
Heart Attacks and Strokes
Heart attacks are more than twice as likely in individuals with diabetes, while strokes and cerebral events
are at least five 5 times as common in patients with chonic diabetes. These changes reflect
the impaired circulatory system in dabetics. These diabetic complications often are not counted against
the diabetes, and the problems with these systems are one of the reasons you need to exercize and diet well when
you have diabetes, as you are not only trying to control your blood sugar but also your cholesteral which builds up
plaque and clogs these arteries.