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Long-Term Complications of Diabetes

Diabetes can cause health problems over time. These are called complications. They are more likely to happen if your blood sugar is often too high. Over time, high blood sugar can damage blood vessels in your body. It's important to keep your blood sugar in your target range. This can help prevent or delay complications from diabetes.

Front view of male figure showing brain and nervous system, cardiovascular system, lungs, and kidneys.

Possible complications

Diabetes can cause:

  • Eye problems, such as damage to the blood vessels in the eyes, pressure in the eye, and clouding of the eye’s lens. In time, eye problems can lead to bleeding and blindness. 

  • Tooth and gum problems. These can cause loss of teeth and bone.

  • Blood vessel disease, leading to circulation problems, heart attack, or stroke. Or you may need a limb removed because of poor blood flow to the skin.

  • Problems with sexual function. Men may have erectile dysfunction. Women may have sexual discomfort. 

  • Kidney disease, leading to kidney failure. You may need dialysis or a kidney transplant. 

  • Nerve problems, causing pain or loss of feeling in your feet and other parts of your body. This may lead to loss of a limb. 

  • High blood pressure. This health problem puts strain on your heart and blood vessels.

  • Serious infections. These can possibly lead to loss of toes, feet, or limbs.

  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Having type 2 diabetes raises the risk for severe fat buildup in the liver.

  • Musculoskeletal problems. These include carpal tunnel syndrome, frozen shoulder, and Dupuytren contractures in the fingers.

How to prevent complications

You can prevent these serious problems by managing your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. This can help you feel better and stay healthy. You can control diabetes by tracking your blood sugar. You can also eat healthy and exercise to prevent weight gain. If you smoke, stop all tobacco products. It will greatly improve your overall health. And take medicine if directed by your healthcare provider.

Online Medical Reviewer: Callie Tayrien RN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2021
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