There are many complications of diabetes. Knowing and understanding the signs of these complications is important. If caught early, some of these complications can be treated and prevented from getting worse. The best way to prevent complications of diabetes is to keep your blood sugars in good control. High glucose levels produce changes in the blood vessels themselves, as well as in blood cells (primarily erythrocytes) that impair blood flow to various organs.
Higher levels of sugar in the urine and the vagina can become a breeding ground for the bacteria and yeast that cause these infections. Recurrent infections are particularly worrisome. “Usually when you keep getting infections, doctors will check for diabetes if you don’t already have it,” says Cypress. “Even women who go to the emergency room for urinary tract infections are often checked.” Don’t miss these other silent diabetes complications you need to know about.
What does the research say about proactive type 2 diabetes management? Research shows that proactive management can pay off in fewer complications down the road. In the landmark UKPDS study, 5,102 patients newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes were followed for an average of 10 years to determine whether intensive use of blood glucose-lowering drugs would result in health benefits. Tighter average glucose control (an A1c of 7.0% vs. an A1c of 7.9%) reduced the rate of complications in the eyes, kidneys, and nervous system, by 25%. For every percentage point decrease in A1c (e.g., from 9% to 8%), there was a 25% reduction in diabetes-related deaths, and an 18% reduction in combined fatal and nonfatal heart attacks.
Jump up ^ Qaseem, Amir; Wilt, Timothy J.; Kansagara, Devan; Horwitch, Carrie; Barry, Michael J.; Forciea, Mary Ann (6 March 2018). "Hemoglobin A Targets for Glycemic Control With Pharmacologic Therapy for Nonpregnant Adults With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Guidance Statement Update From the American College of Physicians". Annals of Internal Medicine. doi:10.7326/M17-0939.
While there are competing explanations of the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes, Gerald Shulman, MD, PhD, a professor of internal medicine and physiology at Yale University, believes the key is figuring out insulin resistance. He has studied the causes of insulin resistance for 25 years and thinks he may have the answer to the weight-diabetes link.
Jump up ^ Seida, Jennifer C.; Mitri, Joanna; Colmers, Isabelle N.; Majumdar, Sumit R.; Davidson, Mayer B.; Edwards, Alun L.; Hanley, David A.; Pittas, Anastassios G.; Tjosvold, Lisa; Johnson, Jeffrey A. (Oct 2014). "Effect of Vitamin D3 Supplementation on Improving Glucose Homeostasis and Preventing Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis". The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 99 (10): 3551–60. doi:10.1210/jc.2014-2136. PMC 4483466. PMID 25062463.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus (non–insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus [NIDDM]) is a heterogeneous disorder. Most patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus have insulin resistance, and their beta cells lack the ability to overcome this resistance.  Although this form of diabetes was previously uncommon in children, in some countries, 20% or more of new patients with diabetes in childhood and adolescence have type 2 diabetes mellitus, a change associated with increased rates of obesity. Other patients may have inherited disorders of insulin release, leading to maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY) or congenital diabetes. [7, 8, 9] This topic addresses only type 1 diabetes mellitus. (See Etiology and Epidemiology.)
There are two major types of diabetes, called type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes was also formerly called insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), or juvenile-onset diabetes mellitus. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas undergoes an autoimmune attack by the body itself, and is rendered incapable of making insulin. Abnormal antibodies have been found in the majority of patients with type 1 diabetes. Antibodies are proteins in the blood that are part of the body's immune system. The patient with type 1 diabetes must rely on insulin medication for survival.
Apart from severe DKA or hypoglycemia, type 1 diabetes mellitus has little immediate morbidity. The risk of complications relates to diabetic control. With good management, patients can expect to lead full, normal, and healthy lives. Nevertheless, the average life expectancy of a child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes mellitus has been variously suggested to be reduced by 13-19 years, compared with their nondiabetic peers. 
Type 1 DM is caused by autoimmune destruction of the insulin-secreting beta cells of the pancreas. The loss of these cells results in nearly complete insulin deficiency; without exogenous insulin, type 1 DM is rapidly fatal. Type 2 DM results partly from a decreased sensitivity of muscle cells to insulin-mediated glucose uptake and partly from a relative decrease in pancreatic insulin secretion.
Type 1 diabetes mellitus is characterized by loss of the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreatic islets, leading to insulin deficiency. This type can be further classified as immune-mediated or idiopathic. The majority of type 1 diabetes is of the immune-mediated nature, in which a T cell-mediated autoimmune attack leads to the loss of beta cells and thus insulin. It causes approximately 10% of diabetes mellitus cases in North America and Europe. Most affected people are otherwise healthy and of a healthy weight when onset occurs. Sensitivity and responsiveness to insulin are usually normal, especially in the early stages. Type 1 diabetes can affect children or adults, but was traditionally termed "juvenile diabetes" because a majority of these diabetes cases were found in children.
Diet. In general, the diabetic diet is geared toward providing adequate nutrition with sufficient calories to maintain normal body weight; the intake of food is adjusted so that blood sugar and serum cholesterol levels are kept within acceptable limits. Overweight diabetic patients should limit caloric intake until target weight is achieved. In persons with type 2 diabetes this usually results in marked improvement and may eliminate the need for drugs such as oral hypoglycemic agents.
Type 2 diabetes is due to insufficient insulin production from beta cells in the setting of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, which is the inability of cells to respond adequately to normal levels of insulin, occurs primarily within the muscles, liver, and fat tissue. In the liver, insulin normally suppresses glucose release. However, in the setting of insulin resistance, the liver inappropriately releases glucose into the blood. The proportion of insulin resistance versus beta cell dysfunction differs among individuals, with some having primarily insulin resistance and only a minor defect in insulin secretion and others with slight insulin resistance and primarily a lack of insulin secretion.
Cataracts and glaucoma are also more common among diabetics. It is also important to note that since the lens of the eye lets water through, if blood sugar concentrations vary a lot, the lens of the eye will shrink and swell with fluid accordingly. As a result, blurry vision is very common in poorly controlled diabetes. Patients are usually discouraged from getting a new eyeglass prescription until their blood sugar is controlled. This allows for a more accurate assessment of what kind of glasses prescription is required.
Treatment of high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, which can contribute to circulation problems, can help prevent some of the complications of diabetes as well. A low dose of aspirin taken daily is recommended in people with risk factors for heart disease. All people with diabetes who are between 40 and 75 years are given a statin (a drug to decrease cholesterol levels) regardless of cholesterol levels. Younger people with an elevated risk of heart disease should also take a statin .
The patient, physician, nurse, and dietician must carefully evaluate the patient's life style, nutritional needs, and ability to comply with the proposed dietary prescription. There are a variety of meal planning systems that can be used by the patient with diabetes; each has benefits and drawbacks that need to be evaluated in order to maximize compliance. Two of the most frequently used ones are the exchange system (see accompanying table) and the carbohydrate counting system.
Jump up ^ Sarwar N, Gao P, Seshasai SR, Gobin R, Kaptoge S, Di Angelantonio E, Ingelsson E, Lawlor DA, Selvin E, Stampfer M, Stehouwer CD, Lewington S, Pennells L, Thompson A, Sattar N, White IR, Ray KK, Danesh J (June 2010). "Diabetes mellitus, fasting blood glucose concentration, and risk of vascular disease: a collaborative meta-analysis of 102 prospective studies". Lancet. 375 (9733): 2215–22. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60484-9. PMC 2904878. PMID 20609967.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Diabetes is suspected based on symptoms. Urine tests and blood tests can be used to confirm a diagnose of diabetes based on the amount of glucose found. Urine can also detect ketones and protein in the urine that may help diagnose diabetes and assess how well the kidneys are functioning. These tests also can be used to monitor the disease once the patient is on a standardized diet, oral medications, or insulin.
Type 2 diabetes was also previously referred to as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), or adult-onset diabetes mellitus (AODM). In type 2 diabetes, patients can still produce insulin, but do so relatively inadequately for their body's needs, particularly in the face of insulin resistance as discussed above. In many cases this actually means the pancreas produces larger than normal quantities of insulin. A major feature of type 2 diabetes is a lack of sensitivity to insulin by the cells of the body (particularly fat and muscle cells).
Diabetic neuropathy is probably the most common complication of diabetes. Studies suggest that up to 50% of people with diabetes are affected to some degree. Major risk factors of this condition are the level and duration of elevated blood glucose. Neuropathy can lead to sensory loss and damage to the limbs. It is also a major cause of impotence in diabetic men.
Retinopathy: If blood sugar levels are too high, they can damage the eyes and cause vision loss and blindness. Retinopathy causes the development and leaking of new blood vessels behind the eye. Other effects of diabetes, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, can make this worse. According to the CDC, early treatment can prevent or reduce the risk of blindness in an estimated 90 percent of people with diabetes.
The notion is understandable. Blood sugar levels are high in diabetes, so a common idea has held that eating sugar somehow triggers the disease process. However, the major diabetes organizations take a different view. The American Diabetes Association1 and Diabetes UK2 have labelled this notion a “myth,” as has the Joslin Diabetes Center,3 which wrote, “Diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar.” These and other organizations have worked to educate people about the causes of diabetes and the role that foods play in the disease process.
Can diabetes be prevented? Why are so many people suffering from it now over decades past? While there will never be anyway to possibly avoid genetic diabetes, there have been cases where dietary changes could perhaps have been made to delay or prevent the ailment from further developing. Doctors report that obesity plays a role, as well as activity levels, and even overall mental health often can be common threads of pre-diabetic patients.
Louis B. Malinow, MD is an MDVIP-affiliated physician that's been practicing in Baltimore for more than 20 years. He's board certified in Internal Medicine, a certified Hypertension Specialist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Clinical Lipidology. Dr. Malinow graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and completed his residency at Stanford University Hospital in Stanford, CA. Dr. Malinow is one of the only physicians in Maryland that specializes in both high blood pressure and high cholesterol management. He is also a member of the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society and is recognized by Best Doctors and Top Doctor by U.S. News & World Report and Baltimore Magazine. Dr. Malinow has appeared on numerous news programs advocating for preventive care and wellness.
Type 2 DM is characterized by insulin resistance, which may be combined with relatively reduced insulin secretion. The defective responsiveness of body tissues to insulin is believed to involve the insulin receptor. However, the specific defects are not known. Diabetes mellitus cases due to a known defect are classified separately. Type 2 DM is the most common type of diabetes mellitus.
Rates of diabetes in 1985 were estimated at 30 million, increasing to 135 million in 1995 and 217 million in 2005. This increase is believed to be primarily due to the global population aging, a decrease in exercise, and increasing rates of obesity. The five countries with the greatest number of people with diabetes as of 2000 are India having 31.7 million, China 20.8 million, the United States 17.7 million, Indonesia 8.4 million, and Japan 6.8 million. It is recognized as a global epidemic by the World Health Organization.
In general, women live longer than men do because they have a lower risk of heart disease, but when women develop diabetes, their risk for heart disease skyrockets, and death by heart failure is more likely in women than in men. Another study also found that in people with diabetes, heart attacks are more often fatal for women than they are for men. Other examples of how diabetes affects women differently than men are: