Over time, high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and nerves throughout your body, leading to a range of health problems. Fortunately, you can help prevent or delay some of these complications by maintaining good control of your blood sugar, looking after your overall health, and getting regular checkups.
The most common long-term complications of diabetes include the following:
Diabetes is the number one cause of new cases of blindness in people between the ages of 20 and 74. And having diabetes increases your risk of developing cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. These conditions can be treated, but they may not cause any symptoms until irreversible damage has been done, so make sure to get your eyes checked at least once a year. You can also protect your vision by keeping your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible.
Heart Disease and Stroke
Having diabetes more than doubles your risk of heart disease and stroke, so work with your healthcare team to make sure you're doing all you can to counter that risk. Your best bet is a three-pronged approach: Keep your blood pressure within a healthy range, aim for optimal cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and maintain good control of your blood sugar.
Most people with diabetes will eventually experience some degree of damage to their kidneys, but you can help prevent further damage, or kidney failure, by managing your blood sugar and blood pressure.
A yearly urine check for signs of kidney disease can detect problems early, so if you have diabetes and haven't had a urine test, ask your doctor about it. If protein is found in your urine, your doctor may prescribe medication to slow kidney disease.
Over time, diabetes can lead to nerve damage and circulation problems, which can cause a loss of sensation in your feet as well as other extremities. Symptoms may be slight at first and may include tingling and numbness or dulled perception of pain, heat, and cold in your lower extremities. These conditions make your feet vulnerable to injury and can also interfere with the healing process -- a dangerous combination.
Protect your feet by washing and checking them daily for redness, blisters, scrapes, or cuts. If it's difficult for you to give them a good daily inspection yourself, ask a caregiver to check them, and ask your doctor to check your feet at every visit. Otherwise, your doctor should check your feet at least once a year.