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Complications are a hard part of type 1 diabetes, but it's important to be aware of the signs and keep up to date with your check ups to catch anything as early as possible

Complications are most commonly linked to high blood glucose levels over a long period of time, so the best protection against developing anything is to keep your levels in range.

Common complications

The most common complications can be classified broadly as:

  • Damage to the large blood vessels of the heart, brain and legs (called macrovascular complications)
  • Damage to the small blood vessels (microvascular complications) causing problems in the eyes, kidneys, feet and nerves

The parts of the body that can be most affected by diabetes complications are heart and blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, nerves, gums and feet.

Once you have had type 1 for a couple of years you’re at risk of developing some subtle changes to the organs containing non-insulin requiring cells. Many type 1 related complications don’t show up until you’ve had the condition for many years, sometimes decades.

Check ups

Complications usually develop silently and gradually over time, which means that regular check ups are a must to catch the signs early.

If these changes to your organs are found early, there are strategies to stop or delay the progression of type 1-related complications. For this reason, it is recommended that you are screened for complications two to five years after being diagnosed, then annually thereafter.

How can I stop complications developing?

To lower your risk of complications, you need to manage your type 1 diabetes well, by: Aim to keep your blood glucose...

Kidney disease (nephropathy)

In its early stages, kidney disease doesn’t cause symptoms, but over time it can cause kidney failure. This means they stop working...

Eye problems (retinopathy)

The problems you could get include: A cataract, which is a thickening and clouding of the lens of the eye which blurs...

Nerve damage (neuropathy)

If left untreated, nerve damage could cause problems like ulcers. It’s also a contributing factor in the development of impotence and can...

Foot problems

If left untreated, these problems can cause foot ulcers and infections. At worse, it could lead to amputations. Spotting the signs of...

Problems with heart and blood vessels

This can lead to a heart attack, stroke or blockage of blood vessels supplying the legs and feet, which can lead to...

Gum disease (periodontal disease)

As a result of gum disease, the bone and gums that hold the teeth in place can become weaker and occasionally lead...

Life expectancy

There is no such thing as an ‘average’ person with type 1 diabetes, as each person’s experience of living with type 1...