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The Complications Of Diabetes

Diabetes is a challenge in itself, and it can also lead to additional, sometimes very serious, health problems. But the good news is that you can delay or even prevent the appearance of many complications.


People with diabetes are more prone to hypertension (or “high blood pressure”), which in turn increases their risk of developing other problems, such as heart disease and stroke. Lifestyle habits play a key role in preventing hypertension, as does being monitored by a health care professional.

Heart disease and stroke

Diabetes significantly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke due to several related factors such as hyperglycemia, hypertension, overweight and general lifestyle. However, you can (greatly!) reduce your risk by emphasizing prevention.

Kidney disease

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease and kidney failure in Canada, and up to 50% of people with diabetes will eventually suffer kidney damage. Following your treatment plan, adopting a healthy lifestyle and stabilizing your blood glucose and blood pressure are all good ways to prevent problems.

Eye conditions

Diabetes increases the risk of glaucoma, cataracts and retinal disorders (diabetic retinopathy). Damage can go as far as blindness and occur without any symptoms, which is why it’s important to undergo an eye exam once a year.

Mouth problems

Diabetic people are at greater risk of developing gum disease and having it progress more quickly. The problem can be ordinary (gingivitis) or more serious (periodontitis), which is why it’s important to visit your dentist at least twice a year.

Foot disorders

In people with diabetes, foot problems develop mostly when nerve damage occurs and affects sensitivity. In such situations, small foot injuries can become exacerbated or infected without causing any pain as the usual alarm signal. That’s why it’s important to monitor the condition of your feet and take certain precautions (avoiding walking barefoot, wearing good shoes, etc.).

Skin problems

Diabetes often creates dry skin that’s more prone to injuries and fungal or bacterial infections. Some complications, such as blisters, are relatively benign, but others require medical attention and appropriate medication. Any change in skin appearance should be brought to the attention of a health care professional.

Sexual problems

Diabetes can cause sexual problems in both men and women by messing with blood glucose management or testosterone levels. Maintaining a healthy weight, stable blood glucose and a good diet greatly limits the risks, but several treatments are also available to restore a fulfilling sex life.


The hyperglycemia often associated with diabetes can damage nerves and therefore change your perception of pain. If you experience a loss of sensitivity or a tingling sensation, for example, make sure you discuss it with a health care professional.


Nearly 10% of people with diabetes will one day experience major depression, and about 30% will experience some symptoms of it. Living with diabetes brings its share of difficulties, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes. But don’t suffer in silence—if you’re not feeling OK, speak up.

Note – The material presented here is for informational purposes only and does not replace your physician’s advice. Diabetes can also cause other complications.


American Diabetes Association, “Skin Complications”: Accessed March 8, 2017.
American Diabetes Association, “Foot Complications”: Accessed March 8, 2017.
American Diabetes Association, “Neuropathy (Nerve Damage)”: Accessed March 8, 2017.
American Diabetes Association, “Sex and Diabetes: What You Wanted to Know”: Accessed March 8, 2017.
American Diabetes Association, “Kidney Disease (Nephropathy)”: Accessed March 8, 2017.
American Diabetes Association, “High Blood Pressure”: Accessed March 8, 2017.
Canadian Diabetes Association, “Heart Disease & Stroke”: Accessed March 8, 2017.
American Diabetes Association, “Depression”: Accessed March 8, 2017.
Diabetes Québec, “Diabetes complications”: Accessed March 8, 2017.
Mayo Clinic, “Diabetes and dental care: Guide to a healthy mouth”: Accessed March 8, 2017.


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