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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.

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, such as:

  • 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 such as:

  • cuts, cracks or blisters
  • pain or tingling
  • numb feet

If you have problems with your feet you may be referred to a podiatrist (foot doctor).

Your feet should be checked every year by an appropriately trained professional.

For example:

  • your GP
  • a practice nurse
  • a diabetes team member
  • a podiatrist

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.

The diabetic eye check is called diabetic retina screening. You should attend your screening appointment every time you're invited. This is different from an eye test that checks your eyesight.

If diabetic eye disease is found early, treatment can reduce or prevent damage to your sight.

Diabetic retina screening

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

Freephone: 1800 45 45 55 if you have diabetes and would like to check if you are on our register.

Urgent advice: 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: 1 August 2020
Next review due: 1 August 2023

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 9.