Skip to main content

Avoiding complications

Diabetes can increase your chance of getting other health problems.

Problems will not 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
  • gum disease

Important: Important

Keeping stable blood sugar levels, going to your diabetes appointments and doing a diabetes course is the best way to lower your chance 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 do not 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

Checking your gums and mouth

Extra glucose in your blood can increase your chance of gum disease and infections.

It's important to keep your mouth healthy by:

  • brushing your teeth twice a day or keeping your dentures clean
  • visiting a dentist regularly
  • not smoking – smoking weakens your immune system, making it harder for you to fight a gum infection

Speak to a dentist straight away if you notice problems in your mouth, including soreness, bleeding gums and bad breath.

Page last reviewed: 9 August 2021
Next review due: 9 August 2024