Chapter 17: Complications :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

Complications

When you have diabetes it is possible to get acute problems or chronic problems (complications). The best way to lower the risk of complications is to use what you have learned about diabetes to keep your blood glucose in your target range as much as you can.

Acute Complications

Acute complications are problems that happen in a short period of time. They can also be fixed in a short period of time. The two major acute complications of diabetes that need urgent action are:

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)
  • Severe hypoglycemia

Chronic Complications

Chronic complications are health changes that happen when blood glucoses have been high for many years. These can happen 3 to 5 years after high blood glucoses start. In the beginning, it is possible for some problems to be reversed. In some cases, these become permanent health problems.

Some examples of chronic complications include:

  • Poor growth
  • Diabetic retinopathy (an eye problem that can lead to blindness)
  • Nephropathy (kidney problems that can lead to kidney failure)
  • Neuropathy (damage to nerves)
  • Heart and blood vessel problems

There is good news. Treatment options for diabetes, today, are much better than they were in the past. It is possible to manage your diabetes in a way that lowers the chance of developing chronic complications.


A large research study completed in 1993, called the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT), stated that lower Hgb A1C numbers led to far fewer chronic complications.


If chronic complications are found early, they can sometimes be reversed.

To find problems early:

  • Have a dilated eye exam or retinal scan every year. Start when you start puberty or when you are 10 years old (whichever happens first) and have had diabetes for 3 years.
  • Have a urine test called urine microalbumin. This checks for early kidney problems.
  • Check your feet often for changes or sores that are not healing well.

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