Advanced complications

Long term conditions: Diabetes neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy can cause numbness and tingling in hands and feet

There are four main complications from diabetes:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Retinopathy (eye disease)
  • Neuropathy (nerve disease)
  • Nephropathy (kidney disease)

Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease is the general term given to diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels. The three main types of cardiovascular diseases are:


Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood glucose levels damage the retina, the cells at the back of the eye. If it is not treated it can lead to blindness.


Neuropathy is a disease of the nervous system. There are two nervous systems, the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system, which is the nervous system affected by diabetic neuropathy.

This includes all nerves outside of the central nervous system. Peripheral neuropathy can cause numbness and tingling in hands and feet, muscle weakness and loss of coordination in affected body parts.


Nephropathy (or Kidney disease) occurs when the kidneys start to fail. Kidneys have an important role, filtering and cleaning the blood to get rid of any waste products by making urine. They regulate the amount of fluid and salts in the body, helping to control blood pressure.

These complications are serious, but the good news is that by keeping good control of your blood glucose levels, you greatly minimise the likelihood of getting a complication.

A research study called the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT), conducted from 1983 to 1993 and funded by the National institution of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Problems, proved what many people already believed - the better you control blood glucose levels, the lower your risk of complications.

The research found that by keeping your blood glucose levels between the target range (4-8mmol/l* before meals and less than 10mmol/l two hours after meals for most of the time) you reduce your risk of developing complications.