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Major Complications Of Diabetes: What Would Happen If Diabetes Is Left Untreated?

    Major Complications Of Diabetes: What Would Happen If Diabetes Is Left Untreated?

    Diabetes is a disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Nowadays, even if diabetes can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes, a lot of people still have untreated diabetes. Whether it’s due to a lack of access to healthcare, or simply not following their doctor’s orders, these can eventually lead to major complications of diabetes.

    But what exactly are these complications? What serious health problems can people with untreated diabetes have?

    Major Complications of Diabetes

    Diabetes affects multiple systems of the body. This is because elevated blood sugar levels can cause damage to different parts of the body, such as the nerves, blood vessels, etc. Over time, this damage leads to some major complications1. These complications are the reasons why diabetes can become a deadly disease.

    What usually happens is that if a person is unable to manage their condition, major complications start to appear. Over time, these complications can worsen and can lead to death. So it is important for people to be aware of these complications so that they can take better care of their health early on.

    Here are some of the common complications that can occur if a person doesn’t manage their diabetes:

    Cardiovascular Problems

    One of the major complications of diabetes is having cardiovascular problems. Studies have shown that persons with diabetes have twice the risk of developing cardiovascular problems compared to persons without diabetes.

    This means that not only do diabetics need to manage their disease, but they also need to take steps to lower the risk of cardiovascular problems.

    High Blood Pressure

    Aside from cardiovascular problems, diabetics can also suffer from high blood pressure2. This is because elevated blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels in the body, causing them to become stiff. When this happens, blood pressure can increase, and this can also lead to cardiovascular disease.

    Eye Problems

    Another of the major complications of diabetes is having eye problems. This happens because high blood sugar can damage a person’s nerves and blood vessels in the eyes3. Over time, a person’s vision can get progressively worse, until they can become blind. This is called diabetic retinopathy.

    Once this starts, it can no longer be reversed, so it’s important to prevent it from happening in the first place.

    Kidney Problems

    Kidney problems are another possible complication of diabetes. What happens is that high sugar levels in the blood as well as high blood pressure levels can damage a person’s kidneys. When this happens, the kidney’s ability to function can be severely affected.

    In more severe cases, the kidney can be damaged to a point that it can no longer function at all. If this happens, dialysis or an organ transplant might be necessary.

    Nerve Damage

    Aside from the nerves in the eyes, diabetes can cause nerve damage in different parts of the body4. This condition is called diabetic neuropathy. The parts of the body usually affected are the hands and the feet.

    Patients usually feel numbness in their hands or feet, or even a feeling of pins and needles. Over time, they might eventually lose all sensation in their extremities. This can be a serious problem since if they get any cuts or wounds, they might not even notice it immediately. Regardless of the size, a person with diabetes’ wounds also heal slowly if their disease is not managed, so this combination of factors can lead to serious infections. If not treated immediately, it might even require amputation of the infected limb.

    Key Takeaways

    People should not take diabetes lightly. The effects it can have on the body don’t immediately appear, but once it occurs, all sorts of problems can start to pop up.

    This is why it’s important for diabetics to manage their condition well so that they can prevent major complications of diabetes from happening.

    Learn more about Diabetes here.


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    1. Diabetes – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371444, Accessed October 7, 2021
    2. Diabetes Complications | ADA, https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/complications, Accessed October 7, 2021
    3. Complications of diabetes – Living with diabetes – Diabetes NSW & ACT, https://diabetesnsw.com.au/living-with-diabetes/complications-of-diabetes/, Accessed October 7, 2021
    4. Complications of diabetes | Guide to diabetes | Diabetes UK, https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/complications, Accessed October 7, 2021
    5. Complications, https://www.idf.org/aboutdiabetes/complications.html, Accessed October 7, 2021
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    Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Jul 26
    Medically reviewed by Martha Juco, MD
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