The CDC estimates that 25% of people who have diabetes remain undiagnosed, meaning many are unaware that they have the condition. This disease can have life-threatening complications, so a proper diagnosis and treatment plan are essential.
People who develop diabetes cannot manage the disease independently and should work closely with their healthcare providers to control their blood sugar. Here’s what you need to know about diabetes and why treatment is essential.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic, progressive disease in which your body cannot keep your blood sugar at safe levels. This may be because your pancreas is damaged (type 1 diabetes), or your body cannot produce enough insulin or use it effectively (type 2 diabetes). Insulin is like a key that unlocks the cell membranes to allow glucose to enter.
Pregnant women can also develop diabetes, which resolves after they give birth (gestational diabetes). During pregnancy, if left untreated, diabetes can lead to complications for both the mom and baby.
What is Pre-Diabetes?
Pre-diabetes is the precursor to diabetes, in which your blood sugar levels are above average but not high enough to qualify as full-blown diabetes.
People with pre-diabetes may be able to stop the progression to full-blown diabetes with radical lifestyle changes, like eating healthily and exercising regularly.
Symptoms of Diabetes
The hallmark symptom of diabetes is high blood sugar levels that require management and regular testing with a glucose meter. Having one or more of the following symptoms can also be a warning that you’ve developed diabetes and should see your doctor for a check-up:
- Frequent thirst
- Increased hunger without any evident cause
- Blurred vision
- Frequent urination
- Frequent headaches
- Fatigue with no apparent cause
- Unexplained weight loss
- Frequent skin infections
- Slow healing of cuts and sores
So what are the three most common symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes? The most common symptoms are increased thirst, urination, and hunger.
What Happens if Diabetes is Left Untreated?
If untreated, diabetes complications can be devastating. Side effects of untreated diabetes include:
- Heart disease, including strokes and heart attacks. Diabetes raises your risk of heart disease dramatically.
- Nerve damage and nerve pain. Nearly half of those with diabetes suffer from diabetic neuropathy — nerve damage caused by too much sugar in the blood — which causes pain and numbness in the extremities.
- Infections. Untreated diabetes leaves you more prone to infections.
- Vision loss. Diabetes damages blood vessels in the retina. Cataracts and glaucoma risk are also higher for people with diabetes.
- Kidney failure. Uncontrolled diabetes damages the kidneys and can lead to kidney failure.
- Amputation. Nerve damage and poor blood flow to the feet can lead to sores that go unnoticed, infection, and even the necessity for amputation. Some people with diabetes wear compression socks to help improve blood flow.
If you have symptoms of diabetes, don’t try to tackle it on your own. Untreated diabetes can be life-threatening, so contact your doctor and make an appointment. Even if you don’t have symptoms, you should have your blood sugar checked at least once per year at the doctor’s office.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, we’re here to help. Visit Simply Medical today for all your diabetes supplies, from lancets and glucose meters to glucose meter test strips and compression socks.