People with diabetes are at risk of developing several diabetes-related complications.  Successful self-management of diabetes is absolutely critical for preventing complications and living a long, healthy life.  Successful self-management includes proper use of medication, exercising, eating nutritious foods, and quitting tobacco use.  These are behaviors learned in Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) services, which are provided by health professionals to help people with diabetes cope with their condition. Click here to find DSMES services near you.

If left unmanaged, diabetes can lead to very serious and potentially life-threatening complications:


Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of diabetes-related death, and adults with diabetes are 2 to 4 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 can be reduced by 30% with improved care to control blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels. To learn more about blood pressure, go to


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 glucose levels can reduce diabetes-related kidney failure by about 50%.


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 can 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.  Approximately 82,000 non-traumatic lower-extremity amputations of the leg, foot, or toe are performed annually among people with diabetes.  Regular examinations and patient education can prevent up to 85% of amputations.


Each year, 10,000-30,000 people with diabetes die of complications from flu or pneumonia. They are roughly 3 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.