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Health problems

Type 2 diabetes is a serious but treatable condition. You need to look after your health and have regular check-ups.

If diabetes is poorly treated it can cause other health problems such as:

  • heart disease and stroke
  • vision loss and blindness
  • foot problems – like sores and infections
  • loss of feeling and pain (nerve damage)
  • problems with your kidneys or liver
  • risks to a healthy pregnancy such as premature delivery, miscarriage and stillbirth

Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the development of potential health problems. Many people have type 2 diabetes and do not realise it. It is often not diagnosed until health problems start to appear.


Going for regular check-ups is the best way to detect, prevent and treat any changes to your health.

Regular check-ups

Regular check-ups allow your GP or nurse to check how well your treatment is working.

They will:

  • discuss the best treatment options with you
  • talk about your symptoms
  • discuss your medicines
  • talk to you about any other issues that might be impacting on your diabetes

Phone your GP if your symptoms get suddenly worse or you develop new symptoms between your check-ups.

Download the Safer to Ask booklet (PDF, 397KB, 4 pages) for tips to follow when attending any appointments.

Get your blood glucose checked with your GP - HbA1c

The Haemoglobin HbA1c (HbA1c) blood test looks back at your average daily blood glucose level over the previous 8 to 12 weeks.

Your doctor or nurse will check this 2 to 3 times during the year.

Find out more about HbA1c testing

Get your heart health checked

Have your cholesterol (blood fats) and blood pressure checked at least once a year. Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. It's important that high blood pressure and high cholesterol are detected and treated early.

If you're already being treated for high cholesterol and high blood pressure, keep taking your medicine.

Diabetes worsens the effects of smoking on your heart.

Get help to quit smoking

Get your eyes checked

Diabetes can damage the blood vessels in your eyes. This can cause sight problems such as diabetic retinopathy and blindness.

Eye checks can detect damage before it affects your sight. The diabetic eye check is called diabetic retina screening. It checks the part of your eye called the retina. If diabetic eye disease is found early, treatment can reduce or prevent damage to your sight. 

The HSE offers a free diabetic retina screening service to people with diabetes aged 12 years and older. This screening is available once a year. You can register for screening at or freephone: 1800 45 45 55.

Continue to attend your eye specialist or optician for other reasons, such as glasses or other eye checks.

Non-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

If you have eyesight problems, support is available from the National Council for the Blind Ireland.

National Council for the Blind -

Freephone: 01 830 7033


Check your feet

Check your feet every day. A possible problem of diabetes is damage to the nerves in the feet (diabetic neuropathy) or circulation problems (peripheral vascular disease), without you knowing.

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. These problems can lead to ulcers and infections. In serious situations, this can lead to leg amputations.

How to care for your feet

Be aware of loss of feeling and numbness in your body

Let your GP or nurse know if you notice any changes in your body.

Diabetes can damage your nerves (neuropathy). This usually affects your feet, but it can affect other parts of your body, causing:

  • numbness
  • pain or tingling
  • problems with sex such as erectile dysfunction for men and vaginal dryness for women
  • constipation or diarrhoea

Early treatment can prevent nerve damage from getting worse.

Get your kidneys checked

High blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose over long periods of time can damage blood vessels in the kidneys. Your GP or practice nurse will do urine and blood tests at least once a year to check your kidneys.

Check your teeth and gums

If you have diabetes, it is important to take good care of your teeth and gums and try to reduce the risk of gum disease. Having diabetes puts teeth and gums more at risk. Check-ups are important.

Diabetes and pregnancy planning

Speak to your GP or care team if you're thinking of having a baby.

You can have a safe pregnancy and birth if you have type 2 diabetes. You will need to take extra precautions and have more appointments before and during pregnancy.

Find out more about diabetes and pregnancy

Flu vaccine

Flu can be very serious if you have type 2 diabetes. Ask for your free flu jab at your GP surgery.

Find out more about flu vaccination

Carry medical identification in case of an emergency

Some people wear a special wristband or carry a card that says they have diabetes, in case of an emergency.

If it's known that you have diabetes, this can make a difference to the treatment you'll receive.

Medical ID cards and wristbands may be available at your local pharmacy or through the Diabetes Ireland website.

You could also search the internet for 'medical ID'.

Add ICE contact to your mobile phone

Add the contact name ICE (In Case of Emergency) to your mobile phone contact list. The ICE number is for someone that you would want contacted if you were in an accident or needed medical assistance.

Slaintecare logo
This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 1 August 2020
Next review due: 1 August 2023