Successful self-management of diabetes is absolutely critical for living a long, healthy life. This includes behaviors such as joining a Diabetes Self-Management Education Program (DSME), proper use of medication, meal planning, exercising, and quitting tobacco use.
If left unmanaged, diabetes can lead to very serious and potentially life-threatening complications:
People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is also the leading cause of diabetes-related death, and adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die of heart disease and stroke. Together, heart disease and stroke cause about 65% of deaths among people with diabetes. These deaths could be reduced by 30% with improved care to control blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood cholesterol levels.
People with diabetes experience injury to their nerves and small blood vessels in the body. When the small blood vessels in the kidneys are injured, combined with damage to the nerves in the bladder, the kidneys cannot function effectively. Each year, over 40,000 people with diabetes develop kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease, and diabetes is the leading cause. Treatment to better control blood pressure and blood glucose levels could reduce diabetes-related kidney failure by about 50%.
EYE DISEASE AND BLINDNESS
Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults ages 20 to 74 years old, accounting for approximately 12,000-24,000 new cases of blindness each year. Regular eye exams and timely treatment could prevent up to 90% of diabetes-related blindness.
Between 60% and 70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage, contributing to lower-extremity amputation risk. Vascular diseases associated with diabetes increases this risk further. Approximately 82,000 non-traumatic lower-extremity amputations of the leg, foot, or toe are performed annually among people with diabetes. Foot care programs that include regular examinations and patient educations could prevent up to 85% of the amputations.
FLU- AND PNEUMONIA-RELATED DEATHS
Each year, 10,000-30,000 people with diabetes die of complications from flu or pneumonia. They are roughly three times more likely to die of these complications than people without diabetes; however, only 55% of people with diabetes get an annual flu shot.
Women with diabetes or gestational diabetes who are pregnant have an increased risk for serious complications such as stillbirths, congenital malformations, and the need for cesarean sections. Poorly controlled diabetes prior to conception and during the first trimester is associated with major birth defects in 5%-10% of diabetic pregnancies. Poorly controlled diabetes during the second and third trimesters can result in excessively large babies, posing a risk to the mother and the child. Women with gestational diabetes and their babies are also at higher risk of becoming obese and developing diabetes later in life. These risks can be reduced through screening and diabetes care before, during, and after pregnancy.