Afshan Yasmeen

Bangalore: Prolonged diabetes can lead to heart and blood vessel disease, blindness, kidney failure, and foot ulcers, among other conditions, say doctors.

According to diabetologist Mohan Badgandi, a specialist in Type 2 diabetes, heart disease is the leading cause of death for people with diabetes. Three out of four diabetes-related deaths are caused by heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease.

People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease than persons without diabetes. Even people with Type 2 diabetes who do not have heart disease have an increased risk of having a heart attack. People with diabetes also tend to have other risk factors for heart disease including obesity, high blood pressure, and hardening of the arteries, he said.

Adults with diabetes need to take special care of their feet, said Kalkunte Suresh, Director of the Jain Institute of Vascular Sciences.

People with diabetes are at risk for foot injuries due to numbness caused by nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) and low blood flow to the legs and feet. The most serious injury is a foot ulcer and loss of protective sensation (LOPS), wherein the patient looses the sensation of pain, Dr. Suresh said.

Diabetic foot ulcers are at very high risk of becoming infected, and sometimes they cannot be healed. Non-healing foot ulcers are a frequent cause of amputation in people with diabetes, he said.

“Of the 4.2 crore diabetic population in India, at least 42,000 have blood vessel disease causing gangrene and even leading to amputation. More than 10 per cent of diabetics develop LOPS,” Dr. Suresh added.


People with diabetes are 25 times more prone to blindness. They should have yearly eye check-up to ensure the health of their eyes and to protect their vision, Chairman of Narayana Netralaya K. Bhujang Shetty said.

Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels that feed the retina of the eye. Some cases of diabetic retinopathy can be treated with laser therapy. As this therapy cannot restore vision that has already been lost, early detection is important, Dr. Shetty said and added that diabetics can also get premature cataract.

Kidney failure

Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys. Even when drugs and diet are able to control diabetes, the disease can lead to kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy) and kidney failure, said S.S. Srikanta, diabetologist and Medical Director of Samatvam: Endocrinology Diabetes Centre.