Symptoms and Complications


Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes typically develop over a few weeks, whereas those for Type 2 can develop more slowly, over a period of months:

  • slow healing of wounds
  • increased thirst
  • unintentional weight loss
  • drinking a lot of fluids
  • passing a lot of urine
  • blurred vision
  • being tired for no reason
  • genital itching or repeated bouts of thrush


Cardiovascular disease (CVD)

CVD includes all diseases of circulation and the heart, including strokes and heart disease. People with diabetes have about twice the risk of developing CVD compared with those without diabetes. CVD accounts for 44% of fatalities in people with Type 1 diabetes and 52% in people with Type 2.

Kidney disease

Kidney disease can happen to anyone but it is much more common in people with diabetes and people with high blood pressure. Three in four people with diabetes will develop some stage of kidney disease during their lifetime. Diabetes is also the single most common cause of kidney failure.

Eye Disease

People with diabetes are at risk of developing retinopathy. Within 20 years of diagnosis nearly all people with Type 1 and almost two thirds of people with Type 2 diabetes have some degree of retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy accounts for about 7% of people who are registered blind in England and Wales.


Neuropathy causes damage to the nerves that transmit impulses to and from the brain and spinal cord, to the muscles, skin, blood vessels and other organs. Neuropathy may affect up to half of all patients with diabetes.


Diabetes, particularly if it is poorly controlled, can damage your nerves, muscles, sweat glands and circulation in the feet and legs leading to amputations. Diabetes is the most common cause of lower limb amputations, and over 6,000 leg, toe or foot amputations happen each year in England alone. This is over 135 amputations a week among people with diabetes.


Most studies suggest that people with diabetes are twice as likely to experience a period of depression. People who suffer depression however are very likely to develop Type 2 diabetes – with a 60% increased risk.

Life Expectancy and Mortality

For Type 1 diabetes, mortality is 131% greater than expected and for Type 2 diabetes it is 32% greater. Every year, more than 24,000 people die early due to diabetes.