If I ignore the pre-diabetes, how could diabetes reduce the quality or length of my life?
The effect that diabetes has on the body happens slowly, and can often progress without notice. Over time, though, having too much glucose (sugar) in the blood can damage a number of organs. These are often referred to as “complications” of diabetes.
If you have been told you have pre-diabetes, you can take important healthy steps now to reduce your risk of developing a number of health problems:
Heart and blood vessel damage
Type 2 diabetes can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including atherosclerosis, stroke, peripheral artery disease, and kidney disease.
Over time, prolonged high blood sugar levels can damage nerves, a condition called diabetic neuropathy. This can lead to numbness in the fingers, hands, toes, and feet or tingling, burning or shooting pains that usually begins at the fingers or toes and spreads upwards. Symptoms of this nerve damage can also include vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation, problems with sexual function, dizziness, and other symptoms.
The kidneys are important to filter blood. Over time, diabetes can damage them so they no longer work effectively, requiring either dialysis or a transplant.
Damage to the blood vessels in the eye can eventually lead to blindness as well as increase the risk of cataracts and glaucoma.
Feet are also vulnerable to the nerve and blood vessel damage from prolonged high blood sugar. Minor cuts and blisters can lead to ulcers, infections, and amputations in serious cases.
Skin and mouth conditions
Diabetes may increase the risk of skin infections as well as mount infections and gum disease.
Osteoporosis is a disorder which causes your bones to become brittle and susceptible to fracture. People with type 1 diabetes have a high risk of osteoporosis.
Poor blood sugar control appears to have some effect on the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. The reasons why are still being investigated, but we know that the brain cells are fueled by glucose and when the cells cannot access the fuel supply they need, the brain cells may become damaged.
Although the list of diabetes-related problems is lengthy, it is important to realize these problems primarily occur when diabetes is left untreated. By adopting a healthy lifestyle and treating all related conditions, most people with diabetes can postpone these problems or avoid them all together.
How is pre-diabetes related to heart health?
More research is needed to learn more about how pre-diabetes is related to heart health. The good news is that steps taken to prevent diabetes are the same steps to prevent heart disease. When you treat one of them, you treat them all.
This content was last reviewed August 2015.