People diagnosed with diabetes are at a higher risk of experiencing serious health problems as a result of consistently high blood glucose levels. These health problems can affect various parts of the body, including the heart and blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, nerves, and teeth. Additionally, people with diabetes have a greater likelihood of developing infections compared to those without diabetes.
In most high-income countries, diabetes is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower limb amputations. Proper management of blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels is essential to delay or prevent these complications from occurring. Regular monitoring is necessary for people with diabetes.
Cardiovascular disease is a serious concern for people with diabetes, as it affects the heart and blood vessels, and can cause fatal complications like heart attacks and strokes. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood glucose levels, among other risk factors, increase the risk of cardiovascular complications.
Kidney disease, also known as diabetic nephropathy, is a common problem for people with diabetes and results from damage to small blood vessels in the kidneys. Maintaining near-normal levels of blood glucose and blood pressure is crucial to reducing the risk of kidney disease.
Diabetes can also cause damage to the nerves throughout the body, known as diabetic neuropathy, when blood glucose and blood pressure levels are elevated. This can cause problems with digestion, sexual function, and other functions, and the extremities, particularly the feet, are commonly affected. Peripheral neuropathy, which causes pain, tingling, and loss of feeling, is a serious concern, as it increases the risk of injury and infection leading to possible amputations. Regular foot examinations are recommended for people with diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy is a form of eye disease that affects most people with diabetes and can cause reduced vision or blindness. High levels of blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol are the main causes of retinopathy, which can be managed through regular eye checks and maintaining glucose and lipid levels.
Pregnancy can also pose risks to women with diabetes, as high blood glucose levels during pregnancy can lead to problems for the fetus and mother. Target blood glucose levels should be achieved before and throughout pregnancy to minimize complications. Children born to mothers with high blood glucose levels are at a higher risk of developing diabetes in the future.
People with diabetes also have a higher risk of gum disease, known as periodontitis, if blood glucose levels are not properly managed. Periodontitis can lead to tooth loss and is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Regular oral check-ups and annual visits to address symptoms of gum disease are recommended.