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.