Long-Term Health Implications of Diabetes

Type II diabetes is one of the most prevalent illnesses in the U.S. today. Statistics show that more than eight percent of the population suffers from this condition. Another 79 million are pre-diabetic and may be diagnosed with the illness within the next 10 years.

Because it is so common among patients today, it is crucial that people know what steps to take to protect themselves from Type II diabetes. They should also realize the long-term damages that Type II diabetes can have on their bodies and overall health.


Neuropathy is one of the most commonly reported complications of Type II diabetes. Also known simply as nerve damage, neuropathy occurs when prolonged high blood sugar levels damage the nerves in the spinal cord. The damage results in the signals from the brain to the rest of the body being skewed or disrupted.

Neuropathy presents itself through a variety of symptoms including:

  • stabbing or shooting pain in the feet, legs, hands, and fingers
  • burning sensations
  • freezing sensations
  • tingling
  • numbness
  • sensitivity to touch

Neuropathy affects a person’s limbs especially the feet, legs, and toes. The pain can be so severe that it interferes with a person’s ability to work, sleep, walk, and carry out other routine tasks. It can be managed with pain medications and exercise.


Retinopathy, or degeneration of the retinas, occurs when the blood vessels in the retinas are damaged by high glucose levels. The high glucose causes the blood vessels to swell, leak, or experience an interruption of blood flow. The damages then result in the loss of eyesight. 

Diabetic individuals with retinopathy may lose part or all of their eyesight. They also may lose central vision or see black spots in front of their eyes because of the retinal damage. 

Retinopathy may be eased to some degree with laser eye surgery. However, severe cases of this type of nerve damage may be permanent and beyond surgical repair.


Nephropathy, or damage to the kidneys, occurs as the result of prolonged high blood sugar. Diabetics who do not control their blood glucose levels either through diet or the use of prescribed medications risk severely damaging their kidneys.

The diabetic damage to these organs results in the kidneys being unable to filter waste and fluids from the bloodstream. In a short amount of time, the kidneys begin to fail, resulting in the patient either needing a kidney transplant or dialysis. In severe cases of nephropathy, the diabetic patient could die from complications of the illness.

Nephropathy can be kept at bay by eating a low-sugar, low-protein diet and by drinking plenty of clear liquids. Diabetics should also take their prescribed medications like insulin as directed and remain under the care of an endocrinologist.


According to the National Stroke Association, diabetics have a two to four percent higher risk of suffering a stroke because of their illness. Type II diabetes prevents the cells in the body from getting enough energy. As a result, the cells are not able to prevent the buildup of fatty deposits inside of the blood vessel walls. The buildup prevents the flow of blood to the brain and heart, putting the person at risk of a stroke. 

As with preventing other long-lasting damages from Type II diabetes, it is crucial that diabetics eat a heart healthy diet and get plenty of daily exercise. They should also use their insulin as prescribed and follow up with their doctors for regular diabetic checkups.


Type II diabetics stand a greater risk of having a limb, fingers, or toes amputated than the rest of the population. Most diabetics progressively lose sensation in their limbs, hands, and feet. Because they have no feeling in these parts of their bodies, they may not realize when they suffer a cut or a wound.

The cut or wound may then get infected or become bigger in size. It also may go deeper into the skin. Because diabetics do not heal as well as non-diabetic individuals, they may eventually have to undergo an amputation of the affected area. Amputations are often the last method of treatment for chronic wounds or cuts that have developed gangrene.

Diabetics are cautioned to inspect their limbs, fingers, and toes often especially their feet. If they see a cut or wound, they should seek immediate treatment for it to prevent it from spreading or getting infected.

Type II diabetes can have long-lasting ramifications on a person’s health. Michael Hennessey, CEO of Diathive.com states “many of the worst implications can be prevented or delayed with prescription medications, use of glucose meters and diabetic test strips, proper diet, and exercise.” People with Type II diabetes are reminded to remain under the care of a skilled primary care doctor or endocrinologist and to be on guard for symptoms that occur with long term risks of this illness.