Potential Risks From Leaving Diabetes Untreated

Ignoring diabetes can lead to chronic complications, many of which do not emerge immediately but can silently build up over a long period. Here are four health problems one could potentially face as a result. 

1. Diabetic ketoacidosis

When the insulin supply of the body gets too low, one can face a very serious complication called diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA. It causes the blood to become acidic, having the potential to be life-threatening.

"Infection, injury, a serious illness, missing doses of insulin shots, or surgery can lead to DKA in people with type 1 diabetes," MedlinePlus stated. "People with type 2 diabetes can also develop DKA, but it is less common and less severe. It is usually triggered by prolonged uncontrolled blood sugar, missing doses of medicines, or a severe illness or infection."

2. Heart disease

The risk of dying from heart disease is doubled in adults with diabetes, as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As opposed to managing the latter and following a healthy lifestyle, leaving diabetes untreated can only increase the risk.

Over time, high blood glucose can cause damage to the walls of the arteries. As a result, substances like fats and cholesterol can build up along the walls. As they harden and narrow the pathway of the arteries, they could reduce blood flow and lead to some form of cardiovascular disease.

3. Foot problems

We know that uncontrolled diabetes can damage our nerves — if these nerves happen to be in the feet or legs, you may experience ulcers, blisters, and a build-up of hardened skin in the area. One is also more susceptible to nail infections and conditions like athlete's foot. 

But if the nerve damage is not treated, there is also reduced or loss of sensation in the feet. This makes it hard to notice abnormal pain, tissue death, or any other concerning symptoms. Over time, the worst case scenario is amputation.

Dr. Richard A. Frieden of Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, encouraged more people in their 40s and 50s to get screened for diabetes so they can start treatment as soon as possible. 

"The majority of folks who come in [for amputations] are in their 60s," he said.

4. Sexual dysfunction

While everyone is susceptible to sexual problems from time to time, high sugar levels can increase the risk of these problems. While a man may have to deal with erectile dysfunction, a woman may experience vaginal dryness — the complications typically arise from damaged nerves or blood vessels.

According to Diabetes UK, both sexes are also at risk of contracting a fungal infection known as thrush. It is said that elevated sugar levels in the urine provide the perfect environment for thrush-associated bacteria to thrive.