ComplicationsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Type 1 diabetes can affect nearly every major organ in your child's body, including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. The good news is that keeping your child's blood sugar level close to normal most of the time can dramatically reduce the risk of these complications.
Long-term complications of type 1 diabetes develop gradually. Eventually, if blood sugar levels aren't well controlled, diabetes complications may be disabling or even life-threatening.
- Heart and blood vessel disease. Diabetes dramatically increases your child's risk of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina), heart attack, stroke, narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and high blood pressure, later in life.
- Nerve damage (neuropathy). Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish your child's nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain. Nerve damage usually happens gradually, over a long period of time.
- Kidney damage (nephropathy). Diabetes can damage the numerous tiny blood vessel clusters that filter waste from your child's blood. Severe damage can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant.
- Eye damage. Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy). Diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness. Diabetes can also lead to cataracts and a greater risk of glaucoma.
- Foot damage. 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.
- Skin conditions. Diabetes may leave your child more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial infections, fungal infections and itching.
- Osteoporosis. Diabetes may lead to lower than normal bone mineral density, increasing your child's risk of osteoporosis as an adult.
- Brain problems. Although the exact reason for the link isn't clear, people with diabetes have an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
- Standards of medical care in diabetes — 2011. Diabetes Care. 2011;34(suppl):1.
- Your guide to diabetes: Type 1 and type 2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/type1and2/. Accessed Jan. 10, 2011.
- Diabetes mellitus. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/sec12/ch158/ch158b.html#sec12-ch158-ch158b-1105. Accessed Jan. 13, 2011.
- Shulman RM, et al. Type 1 diabetes mellitus in childhood. Medicine. 2010;38:679.
- Knip M, et al. Dietary intervention in infancy and later signs of beta-cell autoimmunity. New England Journal of Medicine. 2010;363:1900.
- de Paula FJA, et al. Novel insights into the relationship between diabetes and osteoporosis. Diabetes and Metabolism Research and Reviews. 2010;26:622.
- Sims-Robinson C, et al. How does diabetes accelerate Alzheimer disease pathology? Nature Reviews: Neurology. 2010;6:551.
- Levitsky LL, et al. Management of type 1 diabetes mellitus in children and adolescents. http://www.uptodate.com/home.index.html. Accessed Jan. 10, 2011.
- Levitsky LL, et al. Complications and screening in children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes mellitus. http://www.uptodate.com/home.index.html. Accessed Jan. 10, 2011.
- Ketoacidosis (DKA). American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/type-1-diabetes/ketoacidosis.jsp. Accessed Jan. 14, 2011.
- Shapiro S, et al. The role of complementary and alternative therapies in pediatric diabetes. Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America. 2009;38:791.
- Collazzo-Clavell M (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 19, 2011.
- Types of insulin. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/medicines_ez/insert_C.htm. Accessed Feb. 24, 2011.