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Type 1 diabetes and complications

We can help you understand type 1 complications, the signs to look out for and what you can do to reduce your risk.

A woman sitting outside checking her insulin pump


It can be challenging to live with a long-term condition like type 1 diabetes, especially as it can increase your risk of developing health complications.

Not everyone will experience complications. If you do, there are treatments available to manage your symptoms to improve how you feel.

We can help you understand type 1 complications, the signs to look out for and what you can do to reduce your risk.

What are the most common complications of type 1 diabetes?

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

Nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy)

Nerves carry signals between your brain and other parts of your body so that you can move, feel and control your body. Over a long period of time, high blood glucose levels can cause damage to your nerves.

Find out more about type 1 diabetes and nerve damage (neuropathy)

Kidney damage (nephropathy)

Your kidneys act as a filter to cleanse the blood and get rid of waste products. High blood glucose levels and high blood pressure can cause damage to the kidneys. There are ways to spot the signs of problems with the kidneys and treatments that can help.

Find out more about type 1 diabetes and kidney damage (nephropathy)

Eye problems (retinopathy)

There’s a greater risk of developing eye problems when you have type 1 diabetes. Attending regular eye screening and being aware of any changes to your vision, whatever your age, will help to catch any problems early.

Find out more about type 1 diabetes and eye problems (retinopathy)

Foot problems

People living with type 1 diabetes have an increased risk of developing foot problems. High blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol can reduce the blood supply to your feet, causing a loss of feeling. This increases the risk of wounds and cuts. Ideally, check your feet every day or get someone to help you.

Find out more about type 1 diabetes and foot problems

Problems with heart and blood vessels

When blood glucose levels are high for a long time, it can damage the blood vessels and nerves. This can lead to a heart attack, stroke or problems with other areas of your body. Having a healthy diet and lifestyle and attending your appointments can help reduce your risk.

Find out more about type 1 diabetes and problems with heart and blood vessels

Gum disease

Good dental care is important if you have type 1 diabetes as you’re more at risk of teeth and gum problems like gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss. The extra glucose in your blood gets into your saliva causing germs. There are simple steps to help keep your gums healthy.

Find out more about type 1 diabetes and gum disease

Sexual problems for men and women

Living with type 1 diabetes increases the risk of developing problems with sexual health for both men and women. Talking to your GP can help. They’ll understand and advise treatments.

Find out more about sexual dysfunction

How can I prevent type 1 diabetes complications from developing?

Keeping your blood glucose levels in your target range is one of the best things you can do to avoid complications, but we know this isn’t always easy. Blood glucose levels are affected by lots of different things. This includes food and drink, medicines, illness, activity and stress.

Some days you will do the same as the day before, but your levels could be completely different. Try your best to stay within your targets, but don’t be hard on yourself if you have a bad day. Managing your type 1 diabetes can be a rollercoaster, so be kind to yourself and get support from your diabetes team if you need it.

While complications can sometimes be outside of your control, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.

As well as keeping your blood glucose levels stable, controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol, and going to your diabetes appointments are other ways to lower your chance of complications.

Being physically active, stopping smoking and eating healthily will help to keep your blood glucose levels in your target range.

Be aware of your body and if you feel like something isn’t right, don’t wait. Speak to your GP or diabetes team who can help.

How long does it take type 1 complications to develop?

Type 1 diabetes complications can develop over time and may start and progress at different rates in different people. Complications, such as damage to the eyes, nerves, and kidneys, may take years or decades to develop.

Research into type 1 complications

There’s no good time to be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. However, in recent years there have been extraordinary leaps to find more effective treatments.

To keep people with type 1 as healthy as possible, we’re funding research into managing, delaying and preventing complications.

We want to be able to detect complications as soon as they start. Then they can be treated quickly and efficiently with treatments developed to work for people with type 1. Better still, we want to be able to find out who is most at risk of developing complications and protect them from getting them at all.

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