Microvascular Diabetes Complications

Topic Overview

Microvascular diabetes complications refer to diseases of the eyes (diabetic retinopathy) and kidneys (diabetic nephropathy) that develop because of diabetes. These diseases result from abnormalities in tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that supply every organ in the body.

Small blood vessel complications, potential problems, and symptoms

Small blood vessel complication

Potential problem

Symptoms of problem

Eyes (diabetic retinopathy)

You are also at risk for cataracts and glaucoma.

  • Impaired vision
  • Blindness, in severe cases

Kidneys (diabetic nephropathy)

  • Impaired functioning of the kidneys
  • Kidney failure, in severe cases
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramping
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Swelling from retention of body fluids
  • Decreased amounts of urine (late in the disease)

Nerves (peripheral neuropathy)

  • Decreased sensation, especially common in the feet and hands
  • Weakness
  • Numbness, tingling, burning, and weakness in the feet and hands

Autonomic nervous system (autonomic neuropathy)

  • Abnormal blood pressure and heart rate
  • Gastrointestinal tract disturbance
  • Sexual problems
  • Dizziness and drop in blood pressure when rising from a sitting to standing position
  • Nausea and vomiting from failure of the stomach to contract and move food along the digestive tract
  • Impotence and retrograde ejaculation (associated with painful urination after ejaculation)
  • Vaginal dryness


Author Christine Wendt, R.D., L.D.
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Matthew I. Kim, MD - Endocrinology & Metabolism
Last Updated August 8, 2009

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