If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes you are at risk of developing serious health complications if your diabetes is not controlled. These include premature cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, foot problems and amputation, blindness and depression. Diabetes can also affect your relationships and lifestyle.
Some of these complications are discussed below.
If you have diabetes, you are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease (which includes heart attack, heart failure, angina, stroke) compared to someone who is non-diabetic (1). Furthermore, as the duration of diabetes increases, so does the risk of fatal heart disease (2). This means that adolescents, who acquire diabetes at a young age, are at high lifetime risk of heart disease.
Poor control of blood glucose levels over extended periods of time is strongly associated with diabetic retinopathy. This is damage to the small blood vessels in the back of the eye (retina) and can ultimately lead to blindness (3).
Amputations of the lower extremities (toes, feet, legs) are a severe consequence of diabetes, and can occur as a result of continuous high blood glucose levels. If you have diabetes, you are 20 times more likely to have an amputation (4), and up to 100 people a week have a leg amputated in the UK (5).
Being obese and having type 2 diabetes predisposes you to developing chronic kidney disease: Diabetes is one of the biggest causes of end stage renal disease, or kidney failure (6), often requiring dialysis or transplantation. High blood glucose levels can damage the small blood vessels in the kidney disrupting their ability to filter urine efficiently. This can lead to protein in the urine, and as kidney disease progresses the amount of protein found in the urine increases. High blood glucose levels can also lead to damage to the nerves which signal your bladder is full, leading to infrequent emptying of urine, and increase your chances of developing a urinary tract infection.
There is an association between type 2 diabetes and depression, although the causal factor between the two diseases is unknown. Nearly one in five people with diabetes have clinical depression (7). A recent systematic review found that depression was nearly twice as high in people with type 2 diabetes compared to those without the condition (19.1% compared to 10.7%), with higher rates among women than men (8).