Preventing diabetes complications Ongoing high blood glucose levels (BGL) can damage parts of your body, including your feet, heart and eyes. These are called diabetes complications. But with the right support, you can prevent or delay many of these effects of diabetes. We’re here to help. What are the major complications of diabetes? Your GP or healthcare team may have talked about the different complications, specific to your type of diabetes – type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes. Your body can be affected in many different ways. Complications associated with all types of diabetes Hypoglycaemia Hyperglycaemia Nerve damage Bladder and kidney health Blood pressure Diabetes and your feet Diabetes and your eyes Your teeth and gums Your skin health Your sexual health Your hearing Depression and mental health Your cardiovascular health Influenza Pneumococcal disease Complications more specific to type 1 diabetes Coeliac disease Diabetic ketoacidosis Lipohypertrophy Complications more specific to type 2 diabetes: Sleep apnoea Nerve damage Some people with diabetes may develop nerve damage, called diabetic neuropathy. This can make it harder for your nerves to carry messages between the brain and every part of your body, and can affect how you feel and move. Progressive damage to your nervous system can lead to a loss of feeling in your hands and feet. You may experience: numbness coldness a tingling, pins-and-needles sensation burning pains in the legs and feet, usually more noticeable at bedtime. Reduced circulation from high blood glucose levels can slow down wound healing, which means minor damage can linger and develop into permanent injury. And because you can’t feel any pain, you’re at greater risk of accidental damage. An injury to the feet, for example, can develop into an ulcer which can penetrate to the bone. This could lead to chronic infection of the bones and joints. If left untreated, this can lead to an infected open sore, called an ulceration, and even amputation of a toe, foot or leg. See your podiatrist, GP or diabetes educator if you have symptoms. Diabetic ketoacidosis High blood glucose levels over a long period of time can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). When you have a severe lack of insulin, your body can’t use glucose for energy. So instead, it starts to break down other body tissues as an alternative energy source. Poisonous chemicals called ketones can build up. If left unchecked, they can make your body acidic. DKA usually develops over a period of 24 hours but can be quicker in young children. If you think you have DKA, seek emergency medical care at a hospital. Hearing loss We still don’t know exactly why hearing loss is more common among people with diabetes. But we’re working on it. Research suggests that ongoing high blood glucose levels may affect the supply of blood or oxygen to the tiny nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear. Over time, the nerves and blood vessels become damaged. This impacts your ability to hear. Lipohypertrophy Injecting insulin into the same place on your body can, over time, lead to a build-up of fatty tissue under the skin. This is called Lipohypertrophy. Sleep apnoea Sleep apnoea is a disorder where your breathing pauses or you have moments of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep. If you have sleep apnoea, you’re more likely to snore, and the quality of your sleep will be significantly reduced. Gasping for air throughout the night stops you from getting a deep and restful sleep and can leave you feeling sleep-deprived. It’s more common than you might think – sleep apnoea represents around 80% of all sleep-related breathing disorders. There’s also a close link between having diabetes and experiencing sleep apnoea, with sleep apnoea sufferers nine times more likely to have type 2 diabetes than people without diabetes. Reducing complications It’s never too late to make positive changes and reduce your risk of diabetes-related complications. Always remember to: Keep your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol within target levels. See your GP for all your Annual Cycle of Care checks Take all prescribed mediations Look after your emotional wellbeing Don’t smoke. Call Quitline on 13 7848 for help Be active on most, preferably all, days every week. Follow a healthy eating plan Limit your alcohol intake Lose excess weight Look after your feet and choose footwear that protects them. If you want to make a change and don’t know where to start, see our diabetes fact sheets for more information. Talk to your GP or a member of your diabetes healthcare team, or you can contact us.