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Untreated Diabetes: Symptoms and Complications

A chronic condition that many patients control successfully, diabetes can still have serious consequences if ignored. Learn more about untreated diabetes symptoms from Flo.

Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases which affect your body’s ability to use blood glucose, or sugar, effectively. Glucose is essential to maintaining health since it’s a vital energy source for your brain and cells.

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Known to produce an excess amount of glucose in the blood, diabetes is capable of triggering major medical complications. Its root causes and methods for treatment vary according to type. Chronic diabetes mellitus is categorized as either type 1 or type 2. 

Types of diabetes that are potentially reversible include:

  • Prediabetes 

In this case, blood sugar levels become higher than usual, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

  • Gestational diabetes

It occurs when you are pregnant and may resolve itself after the delivery of your baby.

Some of the common signs and symptoms of diabetes mellitus are:

Untreated diabetes results in a wide variety of long-term medical issues, which gradually develop over time. Your chances for this increase as the disease progresses unchecked, and your blood sugar levels spiral out of control. 

Eventually, these diabetes complications may become debilitating or perhaps life-threatening. Some of the potential consequences of untreated diabetes are:

  • Heart disease

It significantly ups your chances of developing heart problems. This includes coronary heart disease (accompanied by angina or chest pain), atherosclerosis (a narrowing of your arteries), heart attack, and stroke.

  • Neuropathy or nerve damage

Excess blood sugar might damage the walls of your small blood vessels or capillaries. They supply blood to your nerves, particularly in your legs. Signs of neuropathy include pain, tingling, burning, or numbness that usually starts at the end of your fingers or toes and slowly spreads upward.

What happens if diabetes goes untreated? Failure to take action may mean losing all sensation in your affected limbs. Nerve dysfunction associated with digestion could also lead to vomiting, nausea, constipation, or diarrhea.

  • Nephropathy or kidney disease 

Kidney damage is another possible outcome of untreated diabetes. Millions of glomeruli (or clusters of small blood vessels) exist in your kidneys, working to filter waste material from your blood. Untreated diabetes compromises this extremely intricate filtering system. Particularly severe cases might trigger irreversible, end-stage kidney disease, or even kidney failure.

  • Retinopathy or damage to the retina

When the retinal blood vessels (located at the back of your eye) are unable to function properly due to diabetic retinopathy, it may result in blindness. Furthermore, untreated diabetes increases your likelihood of experiencing other complex eye-related issues, such as glaucoma and cataracts.

  • Foot damage

Hampered blood flow to your feet or any nerve damage in that area boosts your chances of developing foot conditions. If left untreated, blisters and poorly healed cuts might create serious infections. Eventually, an incurable infection in one of your legs, feet, or toes might make surgical amputation necessary.

  • Skin conditions

Still asking yourself, what happens if diabetes goes untreated? In the absence of proper medical attention, skin problems like fungal and bacterial infections could be on the horizon as well.

  • Alzheimer’s disease

Research indicates that patients with type 2 diabetes possess a greater chance of experiencing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Hearing impairment

Though the nature of the connection is unclear, untreated diabetes has also been linked to hearing loss. 

  • Depression

Lastly, diabetes mellitus patients commonly present symptoms of depression, which tends to inhibit successful management of their condition.

Depending on the type of diabetes, oral medications, insulin injections, and blood glucose monitoring all play an important role. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet, and exercising regularly are also key weapons in the fight against diabetes.

Practice the following healthy habits to keep diabetes under control:

  • Eat well

Incorporate lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins into your diet. They’re high in fiber and other nutrients while being low in calories and fat. Try to cut back on sweets, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fat. 

Although it’s somewhat challenging to figure out exactly what and how much to eat, a certified dietitian can help you create a diet plan. It should be designed to not only meet your health goals but match your lifestyle and food preferences.

  • Stay active

It’s wise to make aerobic exercise a part of your usual routine. Exercise lowers your level of blood glucose by moving it into the cells where it’s used for energy. Physical activity also raises your sensitivity to the insulin hormone, which implies that your body requires less of it to transport glucose to your cells. 

Choose hobbies that you enjoy, like biking, walking, or swimming. Shoot for a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobics nearly every day of the week. But be sure to consult your doctor before beginning any new activities.

Management of type 1 diabetes mellitus may involve:

  • Using an insulin pump or taking insulin injections
  • Counting carbohydrates
  • Frequent blood glucose checks

Management of type 2 diabetes mellitus may involve:

  • Taking diabetes medications, insulin, or both
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Blood glucose monitoring

Despite being a chronic condition that inhibits your body’s ability to utilize blood sugar effectively, diabetes is manageable if you seek treatment right away. Note that untreated diabetes is known to produce major health complications that are sometimes life-threatening. 

Speak with your doctor about taking medications and making smart lifestyle changes to win the battle against diabetes.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371444

https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/type-1/symptoms

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20371451

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