6 Consequences of Diabetes

Here are six common consequences of uncontrolled diabetes that patients don’t often know about, and what you can do to avoid them.

Older woman with diabetes tests blood sugar levels.

Diabetes is a common condition that can have serious consequences if it is not treated consistently and correctly.

Here are six common consequences of diabetes that patients often don’t know about, and three things you can do to avoid them.

Related: The Difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

1. Pain

Having consistently elevated blood sugar levels damage nerves. When enough damage has occurred, people experience a burning, tingling, or “electrical” type pain, often in hands and feet. Known as diabetic neuropathy, it is irreversible and can be difficult to treat, because traditional pain medications often don’t help.

The good news: You CAN prevent it! Keep blood sugar within a consistently healthy range through regular monitoring, proper nutrition, and proper medication dosage—and you may be able to avoid nerve pain altogether.

2. Amputations

Eventually the nerve damage leads to a loss of feeling, especially in the feet. Although numbness might sound better than chronic pain, it means that when people with diabetes hurt their feet, they often don’t notice the injury.

Because bacteria loves the sugar in the blood, those injuries get infected easily. The infections can be hard to cure and sometimes the only answer is to remove the infected limb.
What can you do if you already have diabetes? Regularly check your feet for even small cuts or injuries and keep your blood sugar in a normal range.

3. Blindness

Diabetes damages your microvasculature, or the smallest blood vessels in your body. Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the very tiny blood vessels in the retina, a part of the eye that allows you to see.

This damage leads to vision loss and eventually blindness—this is the most common complication of diabetes. Once this damage has occurred, it cannot be reversed. Keeping blood sugar in a consistently normal range can prevent this problem from occurring and preserve vision for years to come.

4. Kidney failure

Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney failure. When your kidneys stop working, a machine has to do the work for them. Known as dialysis, the process requires spending hours at a dialysis center having blood filtered by a machine.

Any damage inflicted on the kidneys is permanent, so improving blood sugar after damage is done won’t correct the problem. The best plan is to prevent kidney damage is by controlling blood sugar, exercise, and a healthy diet.

5. Erectile dysfunction (ED)

For a male to achieve an erection, he needs healthy blood vessels and healthy nerves. Because chronically high blood sugar damages both, it can lead to erectile dysfunction. Although there are medications to treat this problem, people with certain heart conditions often can’t use these medications, and people with diabetes are much more likely to have heart problems.

Smoking also damages your blood vessels, so if you smoke and are diabetic, the risk of erectile dysfunction is even higher.

6. Death

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. It is a serious illness and needs to be treated as such. However, with proper monitoring, follow up, and diet changes, diabetics can lead normal, healthy lives.

Related: How Can You Prevent Diabetes?

While diabetes does have serious consequences, it can be controlled with the right preventive measures. Regularly seeing your healthcare provider, getting regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and an overall healthy lifestyle can help you keep complications at bay.

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