What Complications (Problems) are Caused by Diabetes?

If blood sugar is consistently high, over time it can affect the heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, and other parts of the body. These problems are called complications. Sometimes people with diabetes don't realize that they have the disease until they begin to have other health problems. For example, a doctor or health care provider may detect signs of diabetes damage even though the patient does not know that he/she has the disease.

Complications of diabetes include:

  • Heart Disease – People with diabetes have a higher risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Eye Complications – People with diabetes have a higher risk of blindness and other vision problems.
  • Kidney Disease – Diabetes can damage the kidneys and may lead to kidney failure.
  • Nerve Damage (neuropathy) – Diabetes can cause damage to the nerves that run through the body.
  • Foot Problems – Nerve damage, infections of the feet, and problems with blood flow to the feet can be caused by diabetes.
  • Skin Complications – Diabetes can cause skin problems, such as infections, sores, and itching. Skin problems are sometimes a first sign that someone has diabetes.
  • Dental Disease – Diabetes can lead to problems with teeth and gums, called gingivitis and periodontitis.

The risk of complications can be decreased through good management of diabetes and by controlling blood glucose (sugar).