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Avoiding complications

Diabetes can increase your risk of getting other health problems.

Problems will not start immediately, but having high blood glucose levels over long periods of time increases the risk of:

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

The best way to lower your risk of getting these health problems is to:

  • keep your blood glucose levels stable
  • go to your diabetes appointments
  • learn to manage your diabetes by doing a diabetes education course

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.

Related topic

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 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

If you have problems with your feet you may be referred to a podiatrist.

Your feet should be checked every year by an appropriately trained professional (your GP, practice nurse, diabetes team member or a podiatrist).

Related topic

Foot care for people with diabetes

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

Diabetic retina screening

The national diabetic retinal screening programme offers yearly, free diabetic retinopathy screening, to people with diabetes aged 12 years and older.

If you have diabetes and would like to check if you are on our register, please ring freephone 1800 45 45 55.

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: 27/11/2020
next review due: 27/11/2023

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