Complications Overview

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.
  • Hypertension 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.
  • Amputation
    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 persons 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:

Persons 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 blister
  • do not smoke

For more information or to make an appointment, please call 855-979-8667.