Avoiding complications

Diabetes can increase your risk of getting other health problems.

Problems won't start immediately, but constant high blood glucose levels can lead to:

  • heart disease and stroke
  • foot and circulation problems
  • sight problems and blindness
  • pain and loss of feeling (nerve damage)
  • kidney problems

Important

Keeping stable blood sugar levels, going to your diabetes appointments and doing a diabetes course is the best way to lower your risk of getting health problems.

Getting your heart checked

You should have your blood cholesterol (fats) and blood pressure checked at least once a year.

If you smoke, you should stop. Diabetes makes the effects of smoking on your heart worse.

Get help to quit smoking

Loss of feeling

Diabetes can damage your nerves (neuropathy), causing:

  • numbness
  • pain or tingling
  • problems with sex
  • constipation or diarrhoea

Let your GP or diabetes nurse know if you notice any changes like these. Early treatment can prevent nerve damage getting worse.

Looking after your feet

Diabetes can reduce the blood supply to your feet and cause a loss of feeling.

This means foot injuries don't heal well and you may not notice if your foot is sore or injured. This can lead to ulcers and infections.

Simple things are important, like:

  • keeping your feet clean and dry to avoid infection
  • trying not to go barefoot outside to avoid cuts and grazes
  • wearing shoes that fit well

Check your feet every day and speak to your GP or diabetes nurse if you notice any changes like:

  • cuts, cracks or blisters
  • pain or tingling
  • numb feet

Diabetes UK has advice on how to check your feet.

Your feet should also be checked every year by your diabetes nurse or a foot specialist.

Checking your eyes

Diabetes can damage the blood vessels in your eyes, which can cause sight problems (diabetic retinopathy) and blindness.

Your eyes should be checked every year. It's called diabetic eye screening. This is different from an eye test that checks your eyesight.

Eye screening finds damage before it affects your sight. Diabetic eye disease can be treated and prevented, so it's important to go to eye screening appointments.

Speak to your GP immediately if you notice changes to your sight, including:

  • blurred vision, especially at night
  • shapes floating in your vision (floaters)
  • sensitivity to light

Page last reviewed: 14/05/2018
Next review due: 14/05/2020