There are several long-term microvascular and macrovascular complications that develop if your diabetes is not managed properly and your blood glucose is not maintained within the normal range.
Although these complications develop gradually, they can eventually be disabling or even life-threatening. Some of these complications include the following:
Eye damage (retinopathy). Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy), potentially leading to blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of other serious vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
Kidney damage (nephropathy). The kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessel clusters that filter waste from your blood. Diabetes can damage this delicate filtering system (leading to proteinuria). Severe damage can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, which often eventually requires dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Nerve damage (neuropathy). Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish your nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upward. Poorly controlled blood sugar can eventually cause you to lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs. Further nerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various foot complications. Left untreated, cuts and blisters can become serious infections, which may heal poorly. Severe damage might require toe, foot or leg amputation.
Cardiovascular disease. Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease (with/without angina), congestive heart failure, heart attack, stroke, narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis) and high blood pressure.
Skin conditions. Diabetes may leave you more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial and fungal infections.
Alzheimer's disease. Type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The poorer your blood sugar control, the greater the risk appears to be.
The following flowchart depicts how these complications develop in a diabetic's body.
In addition to the aforementioned diabetic complications and health problems, there are other health complications that can occur before or after you become diabetic including the following: high blood pressure; high inflammation (high homocysteine, C-reactive protein, cholesterol, fibrinogen); fatigue; sexual dysfunction; and, frequent infections (especially gum disease).
Note: For more details about diabetes and its complications (and how to treat them naturally without drugs), refer to Chapters 3 and 15 of the Death to Diabetes book or Chapters 2-6 of the DTD Science of Diabetes ebook.