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There are many complications of diabetes that require clinical care by a physician or other healthcare professional. Some of the most common include: 

  • Kidney Disease
  • Nerve Problems
  • Foot Problems
  • Eye Problems
  • Hypoglycemia

What are the clinical complications associated with diabetes?

Clinical complications associated with diabetes may include:

Cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease, in many cases, is caused by atherosclerosis -- an excess build-up of plaque on the inner wall of a large blood vessel, which restricts the flow of blood.

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of diabetes-related deaths
  • Heart disease and stroke are 2 to 4 times more common in persons with diabetes
  • Persons with diabetes have heart disease death rates nearly 2 to 4 times higher than in persons without diabetes

High blood pressure affects 60-65 percent of people with diabetes.

Dental disease
Periodontal (gum) disease occurs with greater frequency in persons with diabetes. Periodontal disease occurs among 30 percent of people 19 years old or older with type 1 diabetes.

Retinopathy or glaucoma (eye disease or blindness)
Blindness due to diabetic retinopathy is a more important cause of visual impairment in younger-onset people than in older-onset people. Males with younger-onset diabetes develop retinopathy more rapidly than females with younger-onset diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy causes from 12,000 to 24,000 new cases of blindness each year.
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among adults 20-74 years of age.

Renal disease (kidney/urinary tract disease)
Ten to twenty-one percent of all people with diabetes develop kidney disease.
Diabetes is the leading cause of end-stage renal disease (ESRD), a condition in which the patient requires dialysis or a kidney transplant in order to live.
According to the latest recorded statistics from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), in 1995, 98,872 persons with diabetes underwent dialysis or transplantation.

Neuropathy (nerve disease)
Approximately 60-70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of diabetic nerve damage.
Severe forms of diabetic nerve disease are the major contributing cause of lower-extremity amputations.

More than half the amputations in the US occur among people with diabetes.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)
DKA is one of the most serious outcomes of poorly controlled diabetes, and primarily occurs in people with type 1 diabetes. DKA is marked by high blood glucose levels along with ketones in the urine. DKA is responsible for about 10 percent of diabetes-related deaths in individuals with diabetes under age 45.

Preventing diabetes complications

People with diabetes must stay alert for symptoms that can lead to clinical complications. The best way to do this is:

  • Get regular checkups -- finding problems early is the best way to keep complications from becoming serious
  • Keep appointments with your physician -- even when you are feeling well
  • Be aware of symptoms and warning signs of potential problems, including:
    • vision problems (blurriness, spots)
    • fatigue
    • pale skin color
    • obesity (more than 20 pounds overweight)
    • numbness or tingling feelings in hands or feet
    • repeated infections or slow healing of wounds
    • chest pain
    • vaginal itching
    • constant headaches
  • Keep blood-sugar levels close to normal
  • Control weight
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Get regular exercise
  • Check your feet every day for even minor cuts or blisters
  • Do not smoke