Complications Associated With Diabetes

Many people with Diabetes eventually develop complications, especially when not well controlled. Even if the Diabetes is controlled, complications can still occur. The good news is that short-term complications can be easily corrected and proper treatment of Diabetes usually delays complications.

The bad news is that long-term complications are difficult to control and can cause early death. Keep in mind as you read this section that there are some individuals who have had Diabetes for over 50 years and have experienced few complications.

This is how Diabetes can become a silent killer

check-1  Hypoglycemia

A very common short-term complication of Diabetes, it means blood sugar levels drop under normal levels. This complication can occur during treatment if the amount of food eaten and the amount of insulin taken are not balanced properly.

sugar-monitor1Hypoglycemia is more common in people with Type 1 Diabetes but can occur in people with Type 2 Diabetes who take sulfonylurea drugs.

Sulfonyurea drugs increase the production of insulin from cells in the pancreas.

If untreated, hypoglycemia can cause seizures, which are involuntary muscle movements and/or decreased awareness of the environment due to overexcitement of nerve cells in the brain. Ketoacidosis is an example of a short-term complication of Diabetes.


High levels of sugar in the blood make it more difficult for the body to fight infections. This can lead to infections of the urinary tract, which is the part of the body that deals with the formation and excretion of urine (pee). To excrete means to release from the body as waste.

check-1Eye Problems

Eye problems can develop as a complication, such as retinopathy (also known as diabetic retinopathy), which is damage to the retina and the blood vessels that serve it. The retina is an area at the back of the eye that is sensitive to light.

Blood vessels are tube-shaped structures that carry blood to and from the heart. Both large and small blood vessels also start to break down quicker in people with Diabetes Mellitus. Blood may also have a difficult time moving throughout the body as a result of Diabetes Mellitus.

check-1Peripheral Neuropathy

Damage to nerve fibers outside of the brain or spine. Peripheral neuropathy can cause a gradual loss of sensation starting at the hands and feet, which sometimes moves up the arms and legs.

neutopathyLoss of feeling and poor blood circulation makes the body more susceptible to ulcers (open sores) and gangrene (tissue death due to poor blood supply or infection of a wound.)

Peripheral neuropathy can also cause dizziness when standing up as well as impotence in men.


check-1Sexual Dysfunction

Diabetes may cause difficulties during sexual intercourse, such as erectile dysfunction and soft erection.

check-1Kidney Damage

Kidney damage can occur as a complication of Diabetes Mellitus, which can lead to kidney failure.

check-1Heart Disease

Another complication of Diabetes Mellitus is a higher risk for atherosclerosis, which is a narrowing of arteries (blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart).


Atherosclerosis can cause damage to large blood vessels, which is a major cause of stroke and coronary artery disease.

A stroke is a burst artery (a type of blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart) or a blockage of an artery in the brain.

Coronary artery disease is a narrowing of coronary arteries, which supply the heart with blood. The narrowing of coronary arteries causes heart damage.

People with Diabetes also have a greater chance to have increased levels of cholesterol, which can speed up the development of atherosclerosis. Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance found only in animal tissues.

check-1Other Complications

High Blood Pressure, Heart Disorders, Strokes and Cataracts are additional complications associated with Diabetes Mellitus. Cataracts is a darkening of the lens in the eye. The lens is an organ located between the colored part of the eye, that bends light as it enters the eye.

A very important issue for people with Diabetes to be concerned about is adequate foot care. This is because one complication of Diabetes Mellitus is ulcers (open sores) on the feet.

In severe cases, ulcers can develop into gangrene. Gangrene means death of a tissue, usually due to a loss of blood supply. It sometimes can lead to amputation.

If a foot sore develops, you should see the doctor immediately.

You can learn more about prevention here.

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If you’re over 40 with Diabetes… Be Warned! More than 75% of Diabetics die of heart diseases!

A recent study from Washington University in St Louis may explain why more than 75% of diabetics die of heart disease (Journal for the American College of Cardiology, February 7, 2006): Diabetics have narrowed arteries because high blood sugar levels cause plaques to form and reduce the diameter of the coronary arteries.

Another study from Sweden shows that many people discover that they are diabetic only after they have had a heart attack.

Researchers recorded blood sugar levels in men who had had heart attacks and then did sugar tolerance tests at discharge and three months later.  They found that 35% had diabetic sugar tolerance tests at hospital discharge and 40% had impaired sugar tolerance tests three months later (Lancet, Volume 359, 2002).

Therefore, 40% of people who have heart attacks are diabetic, even though they may not know it. Many of the diabetics had normal HBA1C blood tests, the standard test to measure diabetic control.

Furthermore, the patients who were unknown diabetics had a much higher rate of sudden death from their heart attacks than those who were not diabetic. The authors recommend that all people with heart attacks be tested for diabetes.

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