Maintaining control of blood glucose (blood sugar) is a fact of life for people with diabetes. Uncontrolled blood glucose levels can cause serious health complications that affect nearly every system and organ in your body. Regular blood sugar tests throughout the day can help you maintain safe blood glucose levels and lower the risks for a host of diabetes complications:
Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke. Cardiovascular disease is one of the most common complications of diabetes, leading to heart attack, stroke, angina, and coronary artery disease. About 65% of people with diabetes die from cardiovascular disease and stroke. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or suffer a stroke than people without diabetes.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure). People with diabetes are also at greater risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure), which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and eye problems.
High Cholesterol Levels. People with diabetes, especially those with poorly controlled blood sugars, tend to have elevated levels of triglycerides and lower levels of healthy HDL cholesterol. People with type 2 diabetes tend to have similar LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels compared to those without diabetes, but their LDL particles seem to be smaller and more prone to cause damage. These abnormalities also increase the risk of heart disease for people with type 2 diabetes.
Vision Loss or Blindness. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness for American adults High blood sugar leads to blurred vision, glaucoma, cataracts, and can cause loss of vision or blindness (diabetic retinopathy). Keeping your blood sugars under control will greatly reduce your risks of diabetes-related eye complications.
Diabetic Neuropathy (Nerve Damage). Diabetic neuropathy can lead to problems throughout your body, including the nerves that control your senses of vision, hearing, and taste. Nerve damage can also cause you to lose the ability to feel heat, pain, or cold. Small cuts or other wounds, like blisters, might not get noticed, or heal slowly, increasing the risk for skin infections and ulcerations.
Diabetic neuropathy can affect the nerves that control your digestive system. Diabetic gastroparesis is a disorder in which the movement of food through the digestive tract is slowed or stopped. This type of nerve damage can cause wide fluctuations in blood sugar and make glucose control difficult. In men with diabetes, diabetes can damage nerves and blood flow in the penis, leading to erectile dysfunction.
Kidney Disease. The kidneys filter waste products out of your blood. But kidney disease affects more than just your blood. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure. Kidney disease doubles your risk of heart attack, stroke, and early death. High blood sugars progressively damage your kidneys over time, and signs of kidney damage also represent a risk factor for heart disease.
Skin Conditions. A host of skin problems are associated with diabetes. Fungal infections, yeast infections, itching, blisters, and boils are common skin issues for people with diabetes. Even though anyone can develop these skin conditions, diabetic people can be more susceptible to infections and slow healing. About one-third of people with diabetes will develop a diabetes-related skin disorder during their life.