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Long-Term Effects of Diabetes Type One

author image Janelle Vaesa
Janelle Vaesa received her Master of Public Health degree in 2008 and Bachelor of Science in health and human performance in 2006, both from the University of Louisville. Vaesa has worked in a variety of settings, focusing on improving the health of clients. Vaesa began running in 2000 and in 2005 began racing in triathlons.
Long-Term Effects of Diabetes Type One
A diabetic's kit. Photo Credit Robert Byron/Hemera/Getty Images


Type 1 diabetes, or juvenile onset diabetes, occurs mainly in children and young adults, but it can develop at any age. According to the American Diabetes Association, only 5 percent to 10 percent of people with diabetes have Type 1. Type 1 diabetes develops when the body’s immune system kills the pancreatic cells that are responsible for producing insulin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that risk factors include environmental, genetic and autoimmune considerations. Type 1 diabetes can have long-term effects on the body because the disease affects many organs.

Heart and Blood Vessel Damage

Heart and blood vessel damage includes heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and high blood pressure. According to the American Diabetes Association, 65 percent of people who have diabetes will die of some type of heart complication.


Neuropathy is damage to the nerves. Diabetic neuropathy leads to weakness, tingling, burning or numbness in the feet, legs, hands and arms. According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, diabetic neuropathy affects more than 60 percent of Type 1 diabetics and is the most common cause of amputation (excluding accidents) in the United States.


Nephropathy is damage to the kidneys. The kidneys are the filtering system for the body. When the nerves become damaged from excess sugar, it can lead to kidney damage or end-stage kidney disease. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation says that one-third of Type 1 diabetes patients will develop diabetic nephropathy.


Retinopathy is the progression of damage to the small blood vessels in the retina, leading to vision problems such as glaucoma, cataracts and impaired vision. The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation reports that people living with Type 1 diabetes for more than 20 years will show some signs of retinopathy. Twenty to 30 percent of Type 1 diabetics will develop an advanced form called proliferative retinopathy, which can cause blindness.

Complications During Pregnancy

A mother and baby are at risk when the mother is diabetic because the need for insulin increases in both the mother and baby. Diabetes that is not controlled leads to an increased chance of preeclampsia (high blood pressure), miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects. The American Diabetes Association recommends that pregnant women have a team of health-care providers who have experience in caring for pregnant women with diabetes. The team should include an obstetrician, a pediatrician or a neonatologist, a registered dietitian and a diabetes educator.

Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) develops when blood vessels in the legs become narrow due to fatty deposits, resulting in decreased circulation to legs and feet. PAD increases the chances of stroke or heart attack. According to the American Diabetes Association, one in three diabetics older than 50 has developed PAD. Most people do not show any signs or symptoms; however, some people may experience pain when walking, or have cold feet and lower legs, numbness or tingling in the lower legs and sores on the foot or leg that are slow to heal.

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