Researchers have found that men are at higher risk of developing complications from diabetes than women, regardless of the duration for which they have had type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health suggests that major complications such as cardiovascular disease, complications to the leg, foot, and kidney, and diabetic retinopathy that affects eyesight are all higher in men irrespective of whether they had diabetes for more or less than 10 years.

The findings were based on survey responses from 267,357 people from a large prospective study in Australia called the 45 and Up Study. Of the total survey participants, all over the age of 45, 25,713 people had either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. They were then followed up using medical records to monitor the development of health issues linked to diabetes.

Health issues considered for the study were:

1) Cardiovascular disease: Ischemic heart disease, stroke, heart failure, diabetic cardiomyopathy
2) Eye problems: Cataracts, diabetic retinopathy
3) Leg/foot problems: Nerve damage, peripheral neuropathy, ulcers, cellulitis, bone inflammation, poor circulation, and amputation
4) Kidney problems: Acute kidney failure, chronic kidney disease, chronic kidney failure, dialysis, and kidney transplant.

Out of the total diabetic patients, 58% were living with the disease for less than 10 years, while 42% had it for more than a decade.

The analysis showed that men in general had higher rates and greater risk of complications associated with diabetes.

"Over an average monitoring period of 10 years, and after factoring in age, 44% of the men experienced a cardiovascular disease complication while 57% had eye complications. Similarly, 25% of the men had leg/foot complications, and 35% kidney complications. The equivalent figures for women were, respectively, 31%, 61%, 18% and 25%. Overall, men were 51% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than women, 47% more likely to have leg and foot complications, and 55% more likely to have kidney complications," the news release stated.

The researchers noted that as the number of years living with diabetes increased, the rates of complications also increased for both men and women. However, even with this parallel increase, men experienced higher rates of complications compared to women. The difference in complication rates between men and women remained regardless of how long they had been living with diabetes.

"Although men with diabetes are at greater risk of developing complications, in particular [cardiovascular disease], kidney and lower-limb complications, the rates of complications are high in both sexes. The similar sex difference for those with shorter compared with longer diabetes duration highlights the need for targeted complication screening and prevention strategies from the time of diabetes diagnosis. Further investigation into the underlying mechanisms for the observed sex differences in diabetes complications are needed to inform targeted interventions," the researchers concluded.