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    diabetes@dshs.texas.gov

Diabetes Complications

Preventing Complications with Diabetes


Diabetes affects your entire body and increases your risk for many serious health problems, but complications are avoidable. You can prevent or delay complications by controlling your blood sugar (glucose), eating healthy foods, being physically active, getting screening tests to prevent or diagnose and manage other conditions and working to keep blood pressure and cholesterol within the range prescribed by your doctor.

Complications may be prevented or delayed by managing diabetes and keeping blood sugar within the range prescribed by your health care team. Consult your doctor for treatment if you develop any of the following conditions:

Skin Conditions: People with diabetes tend to get bacterial infections more easily that those without the disease, especially styes (infections in the glands of the eyelids), boils, infections in the hair follicles, carbuncles and infections around the finger or toenails. Inflamed tissues are usually hot, swollen, red and painful.

Some people with diabetes are also troubled by fungal infections, most commonly candida albicans, a yeast-like fungus that may cause an itchy red rash surrounded by tiny blisters and scales in the warm, moist folds of the skin. Other common fungal infections include jock itch, athlete’s foot, ringworm and vaginal infections. Itching is also a frequent problem for people with diabetes, particularly in the lower legs.

Eye Disease: You may have heard that diabetes can cause damage to your eyes and even lead to poor vision or blindness. But there is good news. You can prevent diabetic eye disease or keep it from getting worse by managing diabetes. The most common eye problems affecting people with diabetes are diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts and glaucoma.

Nerve Damage: Nerve damage from diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy. Over time, high blood sugar levels and high levels of fats (such as triglycerides) in the blood from diabetes can damage your nerves. Symptoms depend on the type of diabetic neuropathy. Different types of nerve damage cause symptoms that range from pain and numbness in your feet to problems with the way your internal organs (such as your heart and bladder) function.

Foot Problems: Foot problems are common in people with diabetes and often cause concern. It’s possible to prevent diabetes-related foot conditions by managing your blood sugar, washing and checking your feet daily, and following up with your doctor if problems begin. Look for signs of cuts, sores or red spots, swelling or blisters, ingrown toenails, corns or calluses, plantar warts, athlete’s foot and warm spots.

Kidney Disease: Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease. In diabetic kidney disease (nephropathy), cells and blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged, which affects the kidneys’ ability to filter out waste. Diabetic kidney disease happens slowly and silently, so you might not feel that anything is wrong until severe problems develop. You can do a lot to prevent kidney problems if get your blood and urine checked each year, and keep your blood sugar and blood pressure levels in a healthy range, as prescribed by your doctor.

Pregnancy: If you have diabetes, the changes you experience during pregnancy will affect your blood sugar levels and managing them may require more effort. Checking your blood sugar levels regularly is a key part of taking good care of yourself and your baby. Your doctor will give you target blood sugar levels that are designed to help you minimize the risk of birth defects and miscarriage and prevent your baby from being over a healthy weight at birth.

Usually between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy, some women develop gestational diabetes. This doesn't mean you had diabetes before you conceived or that you will have diabetes after you give birth, but it's important to follow your doctor's advice regarding blood sugar levels during your pregnancy so you and your baby are healthy.

Gum Disease and Other Dental Problems: People with diabetes are more likely to have problems with their teeth and gums if their blood sugar is not managed. Sore, swollen and red gums that bleed when you brush your teeth are a sign of a dental problem called gingivitis. Another problem, called periodontitis, happens when your gums shrink or pull away from your teeth. You can prevent these problems by keeping your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible, brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing once a day, keeping dentures clean, and seeing the dentist twice a year for a dental examination and cleaning.

Heart Disease and Stroke: Having diabetes means that you are more likely to develop heart disease and have a greater chance of a heart attack or a stroke if your diabetes is not managed. People with diabetes are also more likely to have certain conditions that increase the chances of having heart disease or a stroke, such as or high blood pressure or high cholesterol. If you have diabetes, you can protect your heart and health by managing your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. If you smoke, quit.


Last updated April 17, 2019