How dangerous is Diabetes and what are its complications

Careful monitoring and management of diabetes not only helps to keep your blood sugar from going too high or too low but also prevents other health problem that diabetes may cause. Involvement of kidneys, eyes, heart, and blood vessels is more common with Type 1 diabetes, particularly when the disorder is not kept under control. The best way to avoid these complications is to follow these guidelines :

  • Eat healthy food.
  • Do regular exercise as advised by the doctor.
  • Regularly take your diabetes medicine.
  • Regularly monitor blood glucose.


Diabetes is associated with long term complications which include :

  • Heart and blood vessels disease : It starts when the inner lining of the blood vessels get thicker resulting in narrowing of the vessel. Due to this the blood flow through the vessel decreases. As a result, the blood cannot carry adequate nutrients to body’s many organs. Heart and blood vessel disease can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure. It also causes poor blood flow (circulation) in the legs and feet.
  • Diabetic eye diseases : These include Diabetic retinopathy (damage to the blood vessels in the retina), glaucoma (increase in fluid pressure inside the eye that pinches the blood vessels that carry blood to the retina and optic nerve) and premature cataract (clouding of the eye’s lens, blocking light.). All these may lead to severe vision loss or even blindness.
  • Kidney failure : Your kidneys help to clean waste products from the blood and also maintain a right balance of salt and fluid in the body. Diabetes can damage this system. High levels of glucose make the kidneys filter too much blood. This extra load make the filtering system of the kidney work harder. After many years, they start to leak as a result useful protein is lost in the urine. Having small amounts of protein in the urine is calledmicroalbuminuria. Having larger amounts is called proteinuriaor macroalbuminuria. If timely management is not done the filtering system of the kidney may collapse. This causes more work for the remaining filters and they, too, begin collapsing. As the filtering ability is lost, waste products start to build up in the blood, finally resulting in kidney failure.
  • Nerve Damage (Diabetic neuropathy) : It is a nerve disorder caused by diabetes (Neuropathy means damage to the nerves that run throughout the body, connecting the spinal cord to muscles, skin, blood vessels, and other organs). It may be painful and disabling. Researchers do not yet know what causes diabetic neuropathy. Glucose probably does not hurt nerve cells directly. Instead, it may affect other systems of the body, which in turn affect the nerves. Neuropathy may be diffuse (affecting many parts of the body) or focal (affecting a single, specific nerve and part of the body). Diffuse neuropathy can be peripheral neuropathy (damage the nerves of the limbs especially the feet) or autonomic neuropathy (damage the nerves that serve the heart and internal organs and produces changes in many processes and systems).

Peripheral neuropathy 

    • Numbness or insensitivity to pain or temperature in hands, feet, or legs.
    • Tingling, burning, or prickling.
    • Sharp pains or cramps.
    • Extreme sensitivity to touch (even light touch)
    • Loss of balance and coordination.

These symptoms are often worse at night. Because of the loss of sensation, injuries may go unnoticed and often become infected.

Autonomic neuropathy

Autonomic neuropathy most often affects the organs that control urination and sexual function.

  • Urinary incontinence : Nerve damage can prevent the bladder from emptying completely, so bacteria grow more easily in the urinary tract (bladder and kidneys). When the nerves of the bladder are damaged, a person may have difficulty knowing when the bladder is full or controlling it, resulting in urinary incontinence (involuntary urination).
    • Impotency or sterility : The nerve damage and circulatory problems of diabetes can also lead to a gradual loss of sexual response in both men and women, although sex drive is unchanged.
    • Nerve damage caused by diabetes can also lead to problems with internal organs such as the digestive tract, heart, causing indigestion, diarrhea or constipation and dizziness.
  • Skin Infections : These include bacterial infections, fungal infections, and itching. Frequent infection occurs due to excess sugar in the blood which suppresses the natural defense mechanism like the action of white blood cells. Also sugar is an excellent food for bacteria and fungi to grow in. Itching occurs as a result of fungal infection, dry skin or poor circulation. If timely management of the infection or injury is not done, necrosis (death of tissue) and gangrene (infection of dead tissue) may set in.
  • Gum problems : People with diabetes tend to have more gum disease and infections.
  • Foot problems : Problems with the feet are one of the commonest complications that diabetics suffer from that need special attention. Foot problems most often happen when there is nerve damage in the feet or when blood flow is poor. Nerve damage lessens your ability to feel pain, heat, and cold as a result you may not feel a injury. Poor circulation (blood flow) can make your foot less able to fight infection and to heal. As a result of this poor healing minor injuries such as cuts and splinters, paronychia (infection around the nail) and ingrown nails can become a major problem.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes can complicate pregnancy, and birth defects are more common in babies born to women with diabetes.