How can poor control of my diabetes harm my health?

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

Poor control of your diabetes can harm your health in a number of ways. High blood sugar levels can damage your blood vessels, which, in turn, harms many parts of your body. People with diabetes have two to four times the risk of stroke or death from heart disease. Almost three-fourths of people with diabetes have high blood pressure. Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults in the United States and is the leading cause of kidney failure as well.

Nerve damage, the result of high blood sugar, also wreaks havoc in the body, causing impotence and numbness and pain in the feet. About a third of people with diabetes have problems with their skin, including bacterial and fungal infections. Slow healing, caused by poor circulation, combined with nerve damage, can cause a minor sore on the foot to progress to gangrene and lead to amputation.

William Lee Dubois

In addition to possibly damaging your eyes, your kidneys, and your feet, sloppy control of your diabetes increases your risk for heart attacks and strokes, either one of which will absolutely ruin your weekend. Poor control of your diabetes can also increase your risk of infection.

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Unmanaged or mismanaged diabetes can have devastating consequences. They include:

  • Hypertension: also known as high blood pressure.

The pressure on the walls of the blood vessels increases a person’s chance of having a stroke and heart attack, among other things.

  • Cardiovascular disease: Diabetes can negatively impact one’s entire cardiovascular system; that is, the working of your heart and blood vessels.“Why people with diabetes develop cardiovascular disease earlier than people who do not have the disease is not clearly understood,” states The Joslin Guide to Diabetes, “but studies suggest that the inflammatory process begins very early in the patient who is insulin resistant.”
  • Nerve damage: High blood sugar can damage nerves that relate to your limbs, leaving you with numbness in your hands, legs or arms. Harm can also come to nerves that control other parts of the body, including the stomach, bladder and penis. “Nearly one half of all men with diabetes develop erectile dysfunction (ED, or impotence),” The Joslin Guide to Diabetes points out. “Much less is known about how diabetes may cause specific nerve problems that affect sexual function in women,” says this guide, “although it has been suggested that vaginal dryness may occur. Also, high levels of blood glucose may make women more susceptible to vaginal yeast infections, which in turn can make intercourse more painful.”
  • Amputations: Blood vessels can constrict and harden so that not enough blood flows down to lower limbs, and off comes a toe, foot or leg.
  • Blindness: Diabetes can wreak havoc on the retina’s small blood vessels.
  • Kidney disease: High blood sugar can damage your kidneys’ filtering units. The damage can result in complete kidney failure.

Along with these major health risks, there are a host of “little” things that can cramp a diabetic’s life, such as halitosis.

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Poor control of your diabetes can harm your health by leading to the following:

  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • amputation
  • blindness
  • kidney failure
  • nerve damage

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.