If left untreated or undertreated, diabetes can cause severe complications that can damage many vital organs in the body and lead to premature death.70 Possible complications from diabetes can include heart disease, blindness, lower extremity amputations, kidney failure, dental disease, and increased susceptibility to infections. Estimates suggest that in many states, half of all people with diabetes do not receive recommended preventive care services that are known to reduce the risk of diabetes complications.71
The good news is that the complications from diabetes can often be prevented or delayed with quality medical care and by adopting healthy behaviors to manage diabetes. For example, the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) demonstrated that careful control of blood glucose levels resulted in delaying the onset and slowing the progression of retinopathy (eye disease), nephropathy (kidney disease), and neuropathy (nerve disorders) for people with type 1 diabetes.72 Other studies such as the U.K. Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS)73 have shown similar dramatic reductions in complications with control of blood glucose for people with type 2 diabetes. Empowering people with diabetes with knowledge and resources to proactively manage their disease and prevent or control diabetes complications is an important step in successful disease management. Friends and family members, health care professionals, schools, employers, health insurance providers, community organizations, the public media, and government agencies can all help persons with diabetes to live healthy and productive lives. This section suggests action steps to improve diabetes management and decrease risks for diabetes complications.
70 CDC, National Diabetes Fact Sheet, op.cit.
71 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Levels of Diabetes-related preventive-care practices-United States, 1997-1999. MMWR Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report 2000; 49(42), 954-958.
72 The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial Research Group, op.cit; and Diabetes Complications, National Diabetes Information Clearing House. Available at http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/complications/. Accessed on September 7, 2004.
73 Turner, RC, op.cit.