Organ damage in diabetes


Type 2 diabetes can be easy to ignore, especially in the early stages when you’re feeling fine. But diabetes affects many major organs, including your heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. If you don’t make the effort to get a handle on it, you could set yourself up for a host of complications. Although long-term complications of diabetes develop gradually, they can eventually be disabling or even life-threatening.

Woman Removing Blood from Her Finger for a Blood Test --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Woman Removing Blood from Her Finger for a Blood Test — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Some of the potential complications of diabetes include:


Heart disease and blood vessel disease are common problems for many people who don’t have their diabetes under control. You’re twice as likely to have heart problems and strokes as people who don’t have the condition.

Symptoms: You might not notice warning signs until you have a heart attack or stroke. Even a heart attack may be painless if you have Diabetes. Problems with large blood vessels in your legs can cause leg cramps, changes in skin color, and may even leads to gangrene.


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.


The kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessel clusters that filter waste from your blood. Diabetes can damage this delicate filtering system. Severe damage can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, which often eventually requires dialysis or a kidney transplant.


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 and is termed as ‘peripheral neuropathy.’ Poorly controlled blood sugar can eventually cause you to lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs. Damage to the nerves, supplying various internal organs causes

“Autonomic Neuropathy”; it can lead to different symptoms like constipation, diarrhoea, postural dizziness or urinary retention; in men erectile dysfunction may be an issue.


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.

Questions to ask your doctor:

” How often do I need to be monitored for diabetes complications? Which specialists do I need to see?

Dr. Subhankar Chowdhury; DTM&H, MD (Medicine), DM (Endocrinology), MRCP (UK).

Currently serving as Head, Department of Endocrinology, IPGME&R and SSKM Hospital, Calcutta

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