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Complications of Diabetes

There are many different complications that arise from diabetes. Some of them are:

Heart Disease

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of diabetes-related deaths. Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about two to four times as high as that of adults without diabetes.


  • The risk of stroke is two to four times higher in people with diabetes.

High Blood Pressure

  • An estimated 73 percent of people with diabetes have high blood pressure.


  • Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults ages 20 to 74.
  • Diabetic retinopathy causes from 12,000 to 24,000 new cases of blindness each year.

Kidney Disease

  • Diabetes is the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease, accounting for about 44 percent of new cases in 2002.
  • In 2002, 44,400 people with diabetes developed end-stage kidney disease.
  • In 2002, a total of 153,730 people with diabetes underwent dialysis of kidney transplantation.

Nervous System Disease

  • Approximately 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous-system damage, which often includes impaired sensation or pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion of food in the stomach, carpal tunnel syndrome and other nerve problems.
  • Severe forms of diabetic nerve disease are a major contributing cause of lower-extremity amputations.


  • More than 60 percent of lower-limb amputations in the United States occur among people with diabetes.
  • In 2002, about 82,000 amputations were performed among people with diabetes.

Dental Disease

  • Periodontal disease (a type of gum disease that can lead to tooth loss) occurs with greater frequency and severity among people with diabetes. Severe periodontal disease has been reported to occur among one-third of people with diabetes.

Complications of Pregnancy

  • The rate of major congenital malformations in babies born to women with poorly controlled diabetes before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy varies from 5 to 10 percent and spontaneous abortions may occur in 15 to 20 percent of these pregnancies.

Other Complications

  • Diabetes can directly cause acute life-threatening events, such as diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperosmolar nonketotic coma.
  • People with diabetes are more susceptible to many other illnesses. For example, they are more likely to die of pneumonia or influenza than people who do not have diabetes.

This information is from the National Diabetes Fact Sheet, published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2002.