Diabetes can cause all sorts of nasty complications over time. We’ll start at the top with the eyes. Diabetes can affect the blood vessels in the back of your eyes and cause extra vessels to grow. Sometimes these vessels can get in the way and begin to cause vision loss and eventually blindness. However, this takes many years and is usually the result of very poorly controlled diabetes. As a precaution, all diabetics should see their eye doctor yearly to screen for this.
Secondly, diabetes can affect the arteries (blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the different parts of the body) and make them more likely to become clogged, causing heart attacks, strokes and poor circulation in the feet and legs. These artery problems tend to happen more rapidly if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or if you smoke.
Third, it can affect kidney function over time. Left unchecked, it can eventually lead to kidney failure and the need for dialysis.
Fourth, it can affect nerves in the body, most commonly in the feet. This is due to a degeneration of the longest nerves in the body, which are in the feet. This causes tingling and numbness that starts in the toes, and over time, starts to creep up into the legs. Because of the numbness and poor circulation in diabetics, careful foot examination by both the person with diabetes and the doctor on a regular basis is important.
These are the most significant complications, although there are many others that are less common. I know this all sounds rather dismal and negative, but the good news is that with careful sugar control and help from your doctor, you can avoid most of these complications. Or, if you already have them, you can work with your doctor to keep them from worsening.